After months (years, even?) of speculation, Kyle Lowry is remaining with the Toronto Raptors, at least for now.
With packages rumoured from the Miami Heat, both LA teams, and Philadelphia, to name a few, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster elected to not ship out the greatest Raptor off all-time at Thursday’s trade deadline.
Lowry’s resume speaks for itself: a six-time All-Star, a key cog in an NBA championship, and the Raptors career leader in assists, steals, triple-doubles, three-pointers, and win shares.
The most pressing answer Raptors fans really should be wondering — what does keeping Lowry at this year’s trade deadline mean for the team’s future?
There’s no denying in what Lowry has been.
Even this season, there’s really no issue with what Kyle Lowry is, either.
He’s averaging 17.4 points a night, the sixth best total of his career, and his 7.5 assists per night are the third best mark he’s put up. His defensive game has taken a bit of a step back, but his Win Shares/48 still ranks second amongst regular Raptors players this year.
In keeping Lowry this year, Toronto either makes a decent playoff run after a bad skid or they don’t, and even if they are to get into the postseason this year, it’s hard to imagine them really finding a way to be an NBA champion once again.
There’s nothing wrong with that — 29 teams find themselves not winning it all each year, and this Raptors team was always going to be in tough to be a true contender after some major roster turnover this offseason.
Let’s break down the options about what could happen moving forward, and whether Lowry comes to an agreement with the team past this season.
For Lowry, of course it’d make sense if he wanted to go elsewhere: it’s no big secret the Raptors aren’t what they used to be, and he’d be far from the first to pull it off.
But from a team perspective? It’s a big missed opportunity to cash in on what’s still a valuable trade chip, and losing Lowry for nothing would be a major blow to the team’s ceiling.
Lowry leaving would officially kick off some sort of rebuild for the Raptors, even though he’d really be the fourth starter (and sixth core player) of their championship roster in 2019 to move on to a new destination.
They’d still have two All-Star calibre players in forward Pascal Siakam and shooting guard Fred VanVleet, but holes at the centre position and point guard would be quite the challenge for Nick Nurse’s players to overcome.
As big a fan as you can be of those two guys, and as great as they’ve played in the past, it’s hard to imagine those two running the show with a crew of depth talents would really be a contender in the modern NBA.
The team’s defensive identity has been missing for the majority of this season, and removing a piece like Lowry would only further expose a number of on-court issues that have held the team back this season.
OG Anunoby would be tasked with suddenly finding himself as one of the veterans of the squad, and new acquisition Gary Trent Jr. might eventually find his way into a regular starter’s role.
The good news, however, is that both VanVleet and Siakam have three years left on their contracts — an eternity in the modern NBA. A free agent signing or two, a big trade or a hit on a non-lottery draft pick like the Raptors have been lauded for could be the catalyst in bringing the team back to contention within two or three seasons.
As for a role on the team if Lowry decides to come back, he’s a Raptors starter until the day that he’s not. That’s pretty simple, and it’s all but guaranteed the Raptors will offer him a pretty decent chunk of cash to return this offseason.
VanVleet isn’t taking any of Lowry’s minutes away as they’re usually on the court together, and Malachi Flynn still seems a little ways away from being an NBA regular.
Lowry remaining on the Raptors next season with a contract extension would be good news for Siakam as well, an extremely talented forward who struggles most when he’s asked to be a team’s number one option, most notably in last year’s playoffs against the Boston Celtics where he was often overmatched against one of the league’s best front-courts.
The other major news is that the team will likely get to return to Toronto at some point next year. Being able to play in front of your typical home crowd and use all of your normal facilities could be a major boost to the team’s morale.
The Raptors still might be a move or two away from being true contenders again, but the best version of their immediate future at this point in time contains Kyle Lowry in it.