The Toronto Raptors have been one of the more pleasant surprises in the NBA this season. After a rough start, the team took off after trading Rudy Gay in December and currently has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Demar DeRozan earned his first All-Star selection and many thought Kyle Lowry should have been chosen for the team, too. This team has taken everyone by surprise and is finally giving one of the league’s most hapless fan bases something to cheer about.
So why do they want to ruin all of that by trading Lowry?
On Wednesday, RealGM reported that the Raptors were “aggressively shopping” Lowry as the trade deadline nears. Lowry is a free agent this summer and the Raptors appear disinterested in shelling out big money to keep him around. This is somewhat understandable, but why trade him now? This is the best Raptors team in years – one that will almost certainly make the playoffs and could probably put up a decent fight against the Pacers or Heat. Even if the Raptors aren’t planning on bringing Lowry back, shouldn’t they at least see what they with this team?
The potential rebuke to this is that for all the talent the current Raptors roster has, there’s no way this group could seriously contend for a championship. That may be true but don’t they have a pretty solid foundation in place? Couldn’t adding one more player to the core of Lowry-DeRozan-Jonas Valanciunas make the Raptors one of the scariest teams in the league? Let’s also remember that the Raptors own the rights to the Knicks’ first-round draft pick, giving them two picks in what should be an extremely deep draft. Even if those picks are unlikely to net them the likes of Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, they could still add two more quality players to an already solid roster. The Raptors are in a good place right now, and trading Lowry would just ruin that.
Let’s keep in mind, it’s too late for this team to “tank” in favor a higher draft pick. They already have 28 wins and they play in one of the worst conferences in NBA history. If the team ditches Lowry, they won’t lose enough games to sneak into the top seven of the lottery. There’s too many awful teams in the East — and a few in the West — already. Even if the Raptors trade Lowry and don’t get anything other than draft picks in return, they’ll still probably make the playoffs. The only difference is that with Lowry around, they’d have a great shot to host a playoff series and probably reach the second round, but without him, they would almost certainly be ousted in Round 1.
If the Raptors had traded Lowry around Christmas time, it would have made sense. Trading Rudy Gay made the Raptors a much better team, lifting them from the purgatory of Eastern Conference also-rans desperately hoping to strike gold in the 2014 draft into a team that was better than anyone in the East, save for the Pacers-Heat hierarchy. If the Raptors didn’t want to win with this group, they could have dealt Lowry as soon as they began to rack up wins without Gay. Instead, they kept the group they have, and kept winning, and now they’re about to reach the playoffs for the first time in six years. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem, but apparently it is.
If the Raptors trade Kyle Lowry, they’d be asking their fans to accept an awful lot. The narrative would be that the current core can win a title, so the only logical to choice to rebuild, but there’s no guarantee that’s going to work. Right now, the Raptors are a likable competitive team for the first time in years. If Lowry is traded, the fans lose that and are stuck with another mediocre team. Sure, there’s a possibility that all of this could end up working on later on, but ask the fans to keep waiting. They finally have a team they can enjoy — why ruin that for something is hardly a safe bet. The smartest thing the Raptors can do is keep Lowry, enjoy what could be a thrilling playoff run and decide whether to bring him back after the season over. Thinking about the future is important, but the Raptors present is extremely bright and the smartest thing the Raptors can do right now is sit back and enjoy the ride.