Should Toronto Raptors Make Kyle Lowry Their Long-Term Point Guard?

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Should Toronto Raptors Make Kyle Lowry Their Long-Term Point Guard?
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

On his third team in eight seasons, Kyle Lowry may have found himself a long-term home with the Toronto Raptors.

He's averaging career-highs in points, assists and three-point percentage, and his is team leading the NBA's Atlantic Division.

As the trade deadline passed this week, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri spoke about Lowry's future in Toronto and why he wasn't dealt.

According to Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun, Ujiri said:

Obviously we didn't do anything with Kyle because we view him highly in this organization. I think Kyle is playing his part and we are going to stay on Kyle. I met with his agent yesterday and I think there is a good progress in Kyle's growth here.

I think there are things Kyle needed to work on and I think he has worked hard in getting to that place.

Lowry's breakout season just happens to be a contract year, which means he's been surrounded by rumors for months.

Expiring contracts are always talked about around the trade deadline, and Lowry's has been buzzing since long before then.

On Nov. 1, ESPN's Marc Stein said, "The strong sense now, though, is that the Raps are prepared to trade virtually anyone on the current roster if a suitable offer presents itself."

Just under two weeks later, the Toronto Sun's Cathal Kelly went even further, saying:

Eventually, they will either trade Lowry or allow him to leave via free agency. If it must be done, best it was done quickly. Like right now. It’s time to end the Kyle Lowry era in Toronto, immediately.

The rationale to do anything but is based on the magical thinking that has defined this club since the start of training camp. They keep telling us they’re winners. Then they go out and lose.

There must have been something to that magic, because two-thirds of the way into the season, the Raptors are third in the Eastern Conference (yes, I know it's the East) and have a shot at winning a playoff series.

Still, the idea of trading Lowry—the team's best player—wouldn't go away. Just days before the deadline, ESPN New York's Ian Begley said, "With the NBA trade deadline three days away, the Knicks continue to try to engage the Raptors in an attempt to acquire point guard Kyle Lowry, according to league sources."

Of course, those talks amounted to little more than a hill of beans. Lowry is still on the Raptors, and now Ujiri is saying things like, via Ganter's report:

Kyle has adjusted. We set some good rules and had good talks with him. He was up front with us and we were up front with him ... and he is living up to his part and I think we have lived up to our part too and that's how you build partnerships and we'll see how he grows.

Long gone is the talk of being "Sorry for Jabari" or "Riggin' for Wiggins." Now the narrative is about building a partnership with Lowry and watching it grow.

But at what cost?

He's currently making $6.2 million this season, and will certainly be looking for a raise this summer. Ganter surmised, "somewhere between $8-million to $10-million a year."

Do the Raptors really want to commit to that kind of money? Can't they find similar production from a cheaper alternative? After all, point guard is the position of the future and the league is flush with talent there.

Add to that the stigma of a contract year. You know, the one that suggests that a player will give it his all that last season to earn a big payday, and then take it easy after he signs the long-term deal.

With those factors in place, you can see why Toronto might be hesitant to throw a ton of money at Lowry.

But the argument on the other side is even stronger. 

This season, there are only four players in the NBA averaging at least 16 points, seven assists and four rebounds: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall and Lowry. And of those four, Lowry is second in win shares at 8.4.

On top of that, he's the Raptors' best player. You didn't think I'd mention that up top, and then just leave it alone, did you?

DeMar DeRozan may have been the one who made the All-Star Game, but Lowry put up better numbers:

 

Rk Player PER ▾ TS% TRB% AST% STL% ORtg WS
1 Kyle Lowry 20.2 .573 7.0 35.4 2.3 120 8.4
2 DeMar DeRozan 18.6 .522 6.9 18.4 1.6 108 5.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/21/2014.

And if he's willing to re-sign this summer, Toronto should reward him for his stellar play in 2013-14.

It's not like Toronto is a hotbed of free-agency activity. So replacing him there would be tough.

And it's not like Toronto has a good track record for being able to hang on to young talent either. Vince Carter left. Tracy McGrady left. And yes, Chris Bosh left. So hoping to replace Lowry and build a team through the draft might not be wise.

The best course of action for the Raptors is to hold as many pieces of this winning core together as possible and foster its growth over time. Look what that formula did for the Indiana Pacers or Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chemistry takes time. And the more time this group spends together, with Lowry at the point, the more they'll develop as a unit.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and NBA.com and are current as of Feb. 20, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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