TORONTO – SPORTS – The Toronto Raptors have been one of the NBA’s better teams, and a big part of their success has been their pitbull of a point guard, Kyle Lowry. Coincidentally, Lowry re-signing with the Raptors in 2014, which was previously reported by NetNewsLedger, helped establish Toronto as a perennial force in the league. He signed a four-year deal at the time, then re-upped with the franchise last year for three more seasons.
Lowry is enjoying yet another fine season, the second of his current three-year deal with the Raptors. He has adjusted well to new coach Nick Nurse’s wide-open, high-octane system and has meshed seamlessly with former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. It’s not a surprise then that the Raptors are on pace for another playoff appearance. They have been impressive all season long and are consistently ranked in the top 5 in ESPN’s Power Rankings. They even occupied the number 1 slot for a few weeks, before dropping to 4th. They remain strong contenders, though, and expectations in Toronto are sky high. That’s why bwin currently have the Raptors as second favourites to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, right behind the odds-on pick, Golden State Warriors. These high expectations are warranted, as this Raptors team, led by the Lowry-Leonard duo, are arguably the best ever assembled up north.
What is a surprise is GM Masai Ujiri’s apparent willingness to trade Lowry? The latest trade news from Sports Illustrated indicates that the Raptors are willing to part with their long-time point guard in a package deal that will trade Lowry and center Jonas Valančiūnas for Memphis Grizzlies cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The Grizzlies, who ironically spent their early years in Vancouver, made their two all-stars available this year, likely in an effort to jumpstart a potential rebuild. Rumours have it that Memphis is looking for young stars or first round picks, in exchange for their veterans. That’s probably a big reason why the Grizzlies rejected the Raptors’ offer, as Lowry is already 32. Valančiūnas, however, fits the bill, but being a traditional big man in today’s pace-and-space era makes him less than appealing.
There is a chance, though, that this trade might still push through. That is if the Raptors are willing to part with some of their young up-and-comers, like OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet. The Raptors are working on an uncertain window due to Leonard’s free agency, and they are obviously in win-mode now. That means Ujiri is likely to sweeten the pot a bit more to secure the services of two proven game-changers. Conley is in many ways just as good, if not better, than Lowry, while Gasol is arguably one of the best big men in the NBA right now.
So, yes, there’s a chance Lowry will leave the Raptors. There is a palpable sense of urgency within the franchise and getting Conley and Gasol — even if it means letting go of the beloved Lowry — may be that one deal that’ll push Toronto towards their first ever NBA championship. It also makes sense for the Raptors to pull the trigger on that trade in the context of their year-long recruitment of Leonard. Such a trade will prove the organization’s commitment to winning, and that may appeal to Leonard.
Should Lowry remain with the Raptors, however, there’s a good chance he’ll sign elsewhere in the summer of 2020 when his current three-year deal ends. Lowry, as reported by The Star, has made it known that he feels betrayed by Ujiri. Being used as a trade chip is sure to rekindle those feelings, further complicating the already icy dynamic between player and GM. If Lowry walks away in 2020, VanVleet might by that time be ready to take the point guard reigns, thereby offsetting Lowry’s potential departure.
For now, though, Lowry is a Raptor, and he is playing the good soldier. He is doing his part for the Raptors, who will need an at-his-best Lowry if they are to contend for a title.