Kyle Lowry is going to be a popular free agent this summer and the Toronto Raptors might have a hard time re-signing him.
While DeMar DeRozan is confident his talented backcourt mate and good friend will be back next season and general manager Masai Ujiri believes coming to an agreement with Lowry shouldn’t be an issue, the reality is Lowry will have plenty of suitors and all it takes is for one team to be willing to overpay for him.
Lowry wants to remain in Toronto and following the season he told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "I love this place, it's as simple as that."
It’s interesting how quickly Lowry’s value has risen among fans, the coaching staff and members of the Raptors front office.
Heading into last season, Lowry was known for butting heads with coaches. Sports Illustrated reported that a meeting prior to the season with some influential people involved with the Raptors—Ujiri, Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum, team president Tim Leiweke and Hall of Famer Wayne Embry—gave Lowry a come to Jesus moment where they explained to him just how pivotal this season would be to his NBA career.
Cynics will say Lowry showed up to training camp in the best shape of his career and a willingness to work with head coach Dwane Casey because he wanted to cash in this summer during free agency. That may be true, but Ujiri and Lowry’s teammates feel that Lowry’s growth has been genuine and sincere, and they are the people who deal with him on a daily basis. It’s tough to believe Lowry’s pulling the wool over the eyes of his teammates as well as Toronto’s coaching staff and front office.
Despite Lowry’s past history with coaches, or the fact he was almost traded during the season, the point guard's all-star-caliber numbers this season combined with his improved mental approach have writers claiming he is one of the top free agents this summer.
So, where does that leave the Raptors? In a precarious position to say the least.
Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic all have needs at point guard and have money to lure Lowry. However, none of those teams were in the playoffs last season or have the kind of young core Toronto has.
Lowry has claimed winning is important, but money talks loudly. The reality is if the Lakers offer him a four-year deal worth $60 million it would be tough for him to turn down that kind of money or the chance to play for a glamorous team in a major market.
Toronto also has to worry about other free agents like Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Nando De Colo and if they want to pick up the option for John Salmons next season.
All of those players had valuable roles in Toronto winning the Atlantic Division last season, and it’s likely Ujiri will try to bring most of those players back.
If the Raptors were to offer Lowry more than $12 million per season, it would probably result in Vasquez, Patterson and Salmons playing elsewhere.
Losing so many key contributors from last season may be too big of a pill for Ujiri and the Raptors to swallow.
If Lowry asks for too much money this July, it’s possible Toronto could swing for the fences and try to steal Eric Bledsoe away from the Phoenix Suns. However, that's likely nothing more than a pipe dream because the Suns have vowed to match any contract offer to Bledsoe and they could have just over $30 million in cap space.
While the list of point guards that will be free agents this summer is short, that doesn’t mean signing a point guard to replace Lowry would be Toronto’s only option. They could also look to trade for a starting point guard if Lowry bolts for more money.
Adding a point guard via the NBA draft like Kyle Anderson as insurance is also an option the team will consider.
Lowry is obviously the first option for the Toronto Raptors during free agency this summer, he’s far from their only option.
It will be interesting to see what the market dictates Lowry is worth this summer and if it’s an amount Toronto can—or is willing—to pay him.