Earlier this week, rumors began to swirl that the Miami Heat and Kyle Lowry might have mutual interest in bringing the point guard aboard next season.
To say the least, this ignited conversation surrounding the Toronto Raptors after what had been a very quiet start to the month.
The suggestion that Lowry might want to team up with LeBron James, if the opportunity were to present itself, didn’t generate a whole lot of surprise. After all, it just seems obvious that someone would want to pursue the most likely path to a championship, assuming that the Heat continue to be the odds-on favorites.
From my perspective, there wasn’t a lot of concern in the Toronto market about that particular rumor, but rather an acceptance that Lowry’s name will be brought up frequently and linked to other destinations over the next couple weeks.
But while the appeal of joining a team such as the Heat, Bulls, Pacers, and a handful of others is obvious, there are also compelling reasons for Lowry to re-sign with the Raptors.
1. The Reward Factor
I think it’s safe to say that most fans and media are aware of what Kyle Lowry accomplished on the basketball court in 2013-14.
After Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings in early December, Lowry stepped into the role of team leader, and arguably best player, on his way to posting career-highs in points per game (17.9), assists per game (7.4) and rebounds per game (4.7).
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Lowry was the only player in the entire league to produce numbers of at least 17 points, seven assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game. As difficult as that might be to believe, it’s actually true.
What’s even more impressive is that the 28-year-old led the Raptors in win shares with 11.7, placed eighth overall in the NBA in that same category and helped the Raptors accumulate a franchise-record 48 victories in the process.
This all came after reports that Lowry would have been on his way to New York just a few days after Gay was dealt, expect that Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan blocked the trade. From that point on, Lowry and the Raptors engineered a remarkable turnaround that resulted in an Atlantic Division title and a run that fell just short of winning a playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.
In all of this, Lowry proved his worth in what was only his second season with the Raptors, but first as the full-time starting point guard. It quickly became evident this season that Lowry was a key to success and his heart, hustle, and ability to knock down shots late in games made him a hit with fans.
There is no question that Lowry’s value is at an all time high, both to the Raptors and throughout the league.
Any rumors that surface from now until the free agency period begins in July, will only serve to raise his value even more. As it stands, Lowry can get the longest term with the Raptors (five years as opposed to four) and quite possibly the most money.
Not everyone will agree, but I continue to believe that the Raptors will have to offer a five-year, $60 million deal in order to keep their star floor general in the fold.
Lowry may have factors other than money that weigh into his decision, but, at the same time, he has set himself up for a big pay raise and maybe that is something that he ultimately doesn’t let slip away.
2. Familiarity Breeds Success
Perhaps this is the most cliche reason of all, but there is some truth to the notion that teams that stick together win more. The obvious example is the San Antonio Spurs, who have employed Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili for what seems like a million years.
This is not to say that the Raptors are positioned to make the leap to championship contender next season, but they do have a core group of players capable of taking another step forward.
Of course Lowry is a huge piece of that puzzle, but if he looks around at his co-star DeMar DeRozan and a supporting cast that features Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, and Amir Johnson, I can’t help but think he sees a team that could sustain success for the foreseeable future. The next three to five season will be the prime of Lowry’s career, so why not stay in the place where he established himself and where he has a group of players who might be able to help him accomplish his goals?
Furthermore, if the Raptors are also able to bring back Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez and add a couple solid pieces to the bench (especially a defensive-minded wing player) then Lowry might be able to have success with a team that he could also call his own.
3. Opportunity Knocks
The Raptors have a lot to prove next season. Above all, they need to show that what they did in 2013-14 wasn’t a fluke.
However, assuming that they can play at the same level next season, there is no reason why the Raptors can’t rise to the top of a division that looks wide open at this point.
The Nets will likely field the same core group of players, although they will be slightly tougher to handle with a healthy Brook Lopez. The Knicks have a major question mark looming over them right now and might not be poised to compete next season. And, if anything, it might be the the 76ers and Celtics who show the most improvement.
As such, another 48-win campaign would likely land the Raptors back in the playoffs with home-court advantage and a chance to make some noise with a year of experience to draw from.
While Lowry could simply skip a few steps and join a team such as the Heat who are built to win championships now, there has to be a certain amount of appeal to building something from the ground up.
That opportunity certainly exists in Toronto.