May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center-forward Andray Blatche (0) defends against Toronto Raptors forward-center Amir Johnson (15) in the first half of game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors: The Tables Have Turned In Free Agency

This offseason could have gone two very different ways for the Toronto Raptors.

Plan “A” was obviously to re-sign Kyle Lowry, after a year in which he went far and beyond proving his worth to the team.

As for the alternative to convincing their star point guard that Toronto is the place to be? Well, it appears as though that plan will forever remain a mystery.

On Thursday, the Raptors will finally be able to announce and make official the horribly kept secret that Lowry has agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal, as first reported a week ago by none other than Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

While it was widely believed Lowry would ultimately choose to continue the prime of his career in a Raptors uniform, it wasn’t exactly a forgone conclusion.

Feeling the Heat?

There was a very real concern, to me at least, that the 28-year-old would head to Miami to become the missing piece they continue to seek or that he would re-unite with Houston for a chance to team up with Dwight Howard and James Harden.

In both cases, the idea would be to join an outfit capable of winning championships in the near future.

As of this writing, we are still waiting on the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony to make their decisions. Until then, however, at least fans of the Raptors can rest assured knowing that the biggest domino has already fallen into place in Toronto.

Perhaps Lowry knows something we don’t about the intentions of Miami’s (possibly former) Big Three. At the same time, maybe he just really, genuinely likes the situation enough in Toronto to be able to say “thanks, but no thanks” to competing offers.

A win-win situation

Lowry’s decision is smart in many ways. On an individual level, he is getting a pay day that he earned fair and square.

If winning is as important as he says it is, then Lowry is also committing to a team and a building process that he believes in.

The Raptors would certainly not be basking in the afterglow of a 48-win season without the contributions of DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross. Which is really just to say, that Lowry was not a one-man band in 2013-14.

What he now becomes, though, is the undisputed leader on the court and in the locker room.

In fact, the effects of his decision are already becoming concrete.

Shortly after news broke of Lowry’s signing, reports of an agreement with forward Patrick Patterson quickly followed. It is also expected the Raptors will soon announce the return of Greivis Vasquez, a key reserve and a player who has expressed a strong desire to continue playing in Toronto.

All along, general manager Masai Ujiri maintained that his goal was to bring back the same core group of players for next season, which meant getting deals done with Lowry, Patterson, and Vasquez. He seems to have completed this task with relative ease.

The best part for Ujiri is that his sales pitch was ready-made. All he had to do was point to the success of last season, the promise for the future and to a market where the popularity of basketball is skyrocketing.

On the map

More than anything, Lowry has essentially confirmed Toronto as a destination of choice, not just a team that you are obligated to report to after being traded or drafted.

This will have more of an impact on the franchise in the long run, yet some effects of Lowry’s decision are being realized right now.

According to a report by Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Raptors are scheduled to meet with free agent Andray Blatche in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Blatche is by no means a player worth getting overly excited about, although the 6’11” forward is someone who could fit in quite nicely with the second unit.

This report is significant more so because it’s a rare an instance of a recognizable name with an interest in playing north of the border. And if Blatche is interested, then who else is standing in line?

With a sudden gusto, it seems the notion has caught on that playing in Toronto is cool and more importantly a place with the promise of winning.

Tags: 2014 NBA Free Agency Andray Blatche Greivis Vasquez Kyle Lowry Patrick Patterson Toronto Raptors

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