Is Kyle Lowry's New Contract a Bargain or a Gamble for Toronto Raptors?

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

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If measuring a player's worth in the NBA were a perfect science, this whole free-agency thing would be a much simpler process.

Reality isn't so kind.

So there are bound to be a number of opinions when it comes to Kyle Lowry's new deal. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski cites league sources claiming the point guard "has reached agreement on a four-year, $48 million contract extension with the Toronto Raptors."

Per Wojnarowski, Lowry said, "Toronto is just the right place for me."

And sometimes that's all it takes—a belief that a certain franchise and city are the right fit, that the pastures elsewhere aren't so much greener as they are merely a different shade of green.

It turns out the Raptors thought Toronto was the right place for Lowry, too. But the bigger question is whether four years and $48 million was the right price. That's big money for a 28-year-old whose track record prior to the 2013-14 campaign was nothing spectacular.

It's a flexible deal as well. Wojnarowski explains: "The deal has an early termination option allowing Lowry the opportunity to become a free agent after the third season."

The Raptors weren't the only club enamored with Lowry's most recent season.

He was a backup plan for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to's Ramona Shelburne. He was on the Miami Heat's radar, per Wojnarowski, though perhaps not a high priority. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey even traveled to Philadelphia early Tuesday morning to meet with Lowry, also per Wojnarowski.

If his suitors are any indication of Lowry's market value, the pact he signed with Toronto may have indeed been a bargain.

The market for Lowry was in part a function of the other available point guards. There weren't many.

Reserve guard Shaun Livingston reached an agreement with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas—both impressive young floor generals—are restricted free agents, meaning their respective teams (the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings) can match any offers they receive from other clubs.

After that, there's a significant drop-off in talent, with Jameer Nelson arguably the best available unrestricted free agent.

So to some degree, Lowry could name his price. With so many bidders and so few options at the point, Lowry was a rare commodity, and rare commodities tend to be worth quite a bit.

So are seasons like the last one Lowry had.

The Villanova product averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest. His previous best scoring average was 14.3 points per game (with the Houston Rockets in 2011-12). Lowry didn't crack a double-digit scoring average until his fifth year in the league.

For the moment, then, the latest output is something of a statistical anomaly—albeit perhaps a sign of things to come in the event Toronto is indeed the right fit.

Even more than his regular-season performance, Lowry's first round against the Brooklyn Nets looks to have left a favorable impression on his once and future employers.

He averaged 21.1 points in the series, serving as Toronto's most consistent offensive option and exploding for 36 points in a crucial Game 5 win. Lowry posted another 28 in a Game 7 loss that was decided by just one point.

More advanced metrics add further reason to believe in the Lowry of late.

His .567 true-shooting percentage ranked 13th among point guards, just behind Damian Lillard and ahead of All-Stars such as Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. That's partly a function of Lowry's success from beyond the three-point arc (where he made 38 percent of his attempts last season) and partly due to his ability to get to the free-throw line 4.9 times a game.

And while not as spectacular, Lowry's 28.9 assist ratio ranked him ahead of prolific passers such as John Wall and Stephen Curry.

So even if you haven't associated this guy with the league's very best point guards, the numbers suggest he was among the elite last season.

Certainly good enough for a deal that averages $12 million per season.

In fact, only two point guards were estimated to have added more wins for their teams last season: Curry and Chris Paul.

So if we're measuring Lowry's worth by what he's done lately, the money part of this deal was right on target.

The bigger question is whether he'll be able to keep it up. Lowry relies on his speed to get to the basket (and draw all those fouls), and he could struggle if he begins to lose a step toward the end of his new contract.

TORONTO, ON - MAY4:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors tries to drive around Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets in Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Air Canada Centre on May 4, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Nets
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

He also has yet to prove that he can string together several exceptionally productive seasons in a row. There's a very real chance that we just witnessed the kind of season that won't be repeated any time soon.

If you're Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, however, you probably didn't have much of a choice. While the organization is set to acquire combo guard Lou Williams from the Atlanta Hawks, per Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of, there's little doubt Lowry is the best point guard option Toronto has at the moment.

As's James Herbert put it, "Toronto has to be relieved, as losing him would have been a massive step backward."

For a young team that could be on the verge of something special, regression could be costly.

Put in that perspective, Lowry's contract may be a bargain and a gamble at the same time. Though there's no telling whether he'll continue playing at the high level we saw in 2013-14, this much is certain: Plan B—whatever it was—would probably be even riskier.

There are no sure things in this business, and valuing assets reflects as much. But Ujiri and Co. did what they had to do.

Now it's time for Lowry to do the same.


Advanced statistics courtesy of ESPN's Hollinger stats.