It’s really a shame that whenever we feel like we can turn the page on fruitless speculation regarding the Toronto Raptors, we get pulled back in by what seems like a strategically timed report to muddy the waters again. And it’s Kyle Lowry. The man we have termed as the most variable piece for the team in the most curious situation in the NBA. In reality, given those circumstances, we should expect that this will continue to be a fluid situation, even if we hope for more stability.
A report has surfaced over the past couple of days that says the Raptors are “wary” of paying Kyle Lowry the $40 million or so that he is expecting. The report, per David Aldridge of NBA.com, is drawing comparisons between the deal Lowry covets and some point guard extensions that have been signed recently. The report states three players that will apparently set a precedent for the number that Lowry will want. Looking at them closer, we are not sure about Lowry’s case, even if his almost-elite play, albeit in a small sample size, has made them think about the commitment.
Again, this year has been a career year for Lowry (16.7 points, 7.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds, sparkling 20.0 PER) and a timely one given his free agent year. But when compared with the others that got the $40 million extensions, it makes us question their ability to justify shelling out that kind of money.
Steph Curry is underpaid and as Aldridge reports, it isn’t fair to Lowry to have to accept less because Curry was had at a considerable bargain. We are certain that Lowry’s people will bring that up just as much as the Raptors or any other team will refer to the inverse.
The other two, though, are more fair comparisons.
Jrue Holiday is four years younger than Lowry with none of the attitude concerns. While it appears that Lowry has toned his “difficult” nature down this year, no one can be sure of the motivation. Is it because of his contract year and wanting to put out the best vibe possible? When he gets his money, is he likely to go back to being the “difficult” player to coach that scared so many teams off? These are very reasonable questions, and ones we don’t know right now.
Holiday’s stats are similar (14.3 points, 7.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 17.43 PER) but we view him as more of a true point guard. If we had to choose between the two, we would take Holiday as we think his style would be more beneficial to the development of Jonas Valanciunas. But even though we prefer Holiday, Lowry can make the case that he deserves that money, especially with his high PER and how he has taken his game to another level since Rudy Gay was traded.
Ty Lawson’s stats were a surprise to us (18 points, 8.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 20.05 PER). We had no idea that he was having such a good season, especially the assist numbers given the lack of solid scoring options in Denver. It seems like he has been around longer than Lowry but is actually a year younger. Frankly, Lawson has been playing a high level for longer and that needs to be taken into account also. Lawson should not be making more than Steph Curry, but his impact cannot be ignored. He has running mates like Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye as his best options. We aren’t sure this makes him more valuable than Lowry, who has made it obvious that he is a good fit in Toronto. But if we had to choose, we’d take Lawson. He’s younger, has less baggage and is doing more with less in Denver.
Really, though, this kind of comparison doesn’t mean a whole lot. Yes, it will be brought up by both sides in the negotiations, but it only takes one desperate team to overpay. Just as it’s been since the beginning of the Lowry discussion, it’s all about priority for GM Masai Ujiri. If he’s determined to not pay Lowry in the company of those others, then he has to realize that someone else will. Good young point guards, even ones with questions, don’t grow on trees. Wallowing in resentment over paying a point guard more money than a guy you like even more isn’t going to do anyone any good.
As we’ve said before, Lowry’s trade value is probably high. But the return would be poor. That is the nature of trading in the year of an unusually strong draft. The fact is, they’re not going to trade him and we don’t want them to trade him. They need to finish the season and see what sort of noise can be made in the playoffs. Perhaps Lowry would be so impressed with how the team progressed that he would take a discount, at least something a little less than Holiday. He probably, though, would up his demands based on such a run instead of making a compromise to keep the group together. Of course, the realist in us only sees a player looking to cash in on a dramatically improved reputation, one that may have a shelf life. Good luck, Mr. Ujiri.