Apr 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) prepares to shoot a free throw against the Brooklyn Nets in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Brooklyn 115-113. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors: Replacing Kyle Lowry Wouldn't Be Easy

INTRODUCTION

As of now, I’m confident that Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Toronto Raptors when the free agency period begins in July.

For one thing, the Raptors can offer him more years and more money than any other suitor. I also think the front office staff understands the importance of bringing back the 28-year-old point guard and will pay whatever it takes to keep him.

Not everyone is in agreement on what exactly the term or price tag will be to make it happen.

I’ve already gone on record saying that it will be in the range of a five-year, $60 million deal. Admittedly this price is steep — but I don’t think it’s out of line, especially considering that the demand for top-tier point guards this summer will far outweigh the supply.

In other words, there will be competition for Lowry’s services after what was far and away a breakout season for the eight-year veteran.

In 79 games, Lowry established career highs in points per game (17.9), assists per game (7.4) and 3-pointers made (190). According to Basketball-Reference.com, he also led the Raptors (and was eighth in the NBA overall) with 11.7 win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player.

I also don’t see what the motivation would be for Lowry to leave, other than the babble that you often hear about the cold winters and higher taxes that are part and parcel of playing up north.

There is always the possibility that the 6’0″ floor general would want to go to a championship contender such as Miami, San Antonio, or Oklahoma City, however I don’t think that Lowry is at that point in his career yet, where the only goal is to chase a ring.

May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the warm up against the Brooklyn Nets prior to game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the warm up against the Brooklyn Nets prior to game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets, Lowry seems to have found happiness and success in Toronto. Maybe it can all be chalked up to a player performing well in a contract year. For whatever reason, though, Lowry grew up in a hurry in 2013-14 and changed the perspective that he was somebody who didn’t cooperate with teammates and coaches.

The team’s on-court success and specifically, the chemistry that Lowry developed with All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, are among the many reasons to stay with the Raptors.

Unless their 48-win season was a complete fluke, the Raptors appear to have a core group of players capable of duplicating that success in 2014-15 and might even be capable of going a step further in the playoffs. Although it wouldn’t be an easy task without Lowry.

Earlier in May, I discussed four other destinations that Lowry might pursue in free agency. I certainly hope he doesn’t decide to bolt to one of those spots because the options to replace him with are not overly encouraging.

In this hypothetical scenario, re-signing Greivis Vasquez would become a top priority. Primarily as Lowry’s backup this season, Vasquez appeared in 66 games for the Raptors after being traded from Sacramento and averaged 9.5 points and 3.7 assists in 21.5 minutes of action. On a per 36-minute basis — the type of minutes that Vasquez would get as a starter — those numbers project to 15.9 points and 6.2 assists.

As a full-time starter with New Orleans in 2012-13, Vasquez averaged 13.9 points. His nine assists per game that season were third-best in the league behind Rajon Rondo (11.1) and Chris Paul (9.7) and Vasquez just so happened to lead the league in total assists with 701. Vasquez’s efforts did not go unnoticed as he was the runner-up to Paul George in the voting for the Most Improved Player award.

Dec 13, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) dribbles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten (8) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the 76ers 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 13, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) dribbles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten (8) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the 76ers 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There will likely be competition for Vasquez as well this summer, but as a restricted free agent, the Raptors are in the driver’s seat on this one. Vasquez has also made it quite clear that he would like to return to Toronto.

That would potentially take care of the need for a starting point guard, but then the Raptors would be left in need of a reliable backup.

Here is what the Raptors would find if they decided to address that need by signing a free agent.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Avery Bradley (Celtics), Brian Roberts (Pelicans), Eric Bledsoe (Suns), Isaiah Thomas (Kings), Nando De Colo (Raptors)

Even if De Colo returns to the Raptors, I’m not sure that his offensive game has developed enough to hand him regular duty as a primary backup. As for the other names mentioned, I would expect them all to be retained by their current teams.

The most intriguing option here is Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists in 2013-14 with the Kings. He would undoubtedly challenge Vasquez for the starting job in Toronto. Setting aside the obvious elephant in the room here — that Thomas is the main reason why Vasquez became expendable in Sacramento — this would make for a pretty darn good point guard tandem.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Jerryd Bayless (Celtics), Shaun Livingston (Nets), Luke Ridnour (Bobcats/Hornets), Kirk Hinrich (Bulls), Devin Harris (Mavericks), Aaron Brooks (Nuggets), Steve Blake (Warriors), Darren Collison (Clippers), Jordan Farmar (Lakers), Mario Chalmers (Heat), Ramon Sessions (Bucks).

I’ll just say that there were a couple names not even worth putting on this list. For the most part, these are decent backup options at best. Ideally, I would want to see the Raptors go after someone capable of competing for the starting role or at least someone capable of keeping Vasquez honest.

CONCLUSION

It’s clear that the Raptors would essentially not be able to replace Lowry with an equal talent based on the players available in this year’s free agent market.

The price to keep Lowry is high, but is well worth it considering what it would take to replace him. To find another top-tier point guard, the Raptors would either have to trade up in the draft to a spot high enough that guarantees the guy they want is still on the board (Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Tyler Ennis) or look to acquire an established player.

Either case would likely require the Raptors to give up a rotation player or two, namely Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. But even then, how many teams would be willing to part ways with their starting point guard?

This all goes to show how important it is for the Raptors to get Lowry to sign on the dotted line.

Tags: 2014 NBA Free Agency Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors

comments powered by Disqus