The Raptors, a team expected to compete hard this season for the number one draft pick next June, have had their plans altered by some truly inspired play and now look primed for a potential Atlantic Division title run.
The catalyst for much of the recent optimism in Raptorland is the man leading the team: Kyle Lowry.
Lowry has become the player he was envisioned to be when, then GM Bryan Colangelo, traded a 1st round draft pick to Houston for him. He is scoring at an impressive rate and is getting all of his teammates involved. One of the perceived issues with his game over his Raptor tenure has been his inability to involve the players around him.
With Rudy Gay’s departure, Lowry has taken over as team leader and the team is sharing the ball very well. Lowry has developed a good chemistry with Jonas Valanciunas and has helped Terrence Ross take the next step in his development.
Lowry is looking like the player he was supposed to be last year.
The thing is he was almost dealt a few weeks ago and still might be on the block.
Surely, a deal that involves Lowry would cause immediate issues with team chemistry and be a clear signal that the 2014 NBA draft is more important to the franchise than the Atlantic Division title.
That’s not necessarily a mindset that most Raptor fans disagree with, but is it the right choice?
Lowry is a young player (only 27 years old), and seems to have great chemistry with what would presumably be the Raptors future core in Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. He has shown significant improvement in the last year and would seems to be a player worth building around.
Since the Rudy Gay trade, Lowry has averaged 8.1 assists per game and looks like a totally different player of late.
Then again, he is a free agent this year and is not necessarily worth the money he may end up getting. He is a talented, but flawed player. He traditionally shoots the ball too often, doesn’t shoot a high percentage and hasn’t been as effective on the defensive end in a Raptor uniform.
So what do you do?
Sell high and hope the lottery ping-pong balls fall your way? Take a shot at signing a young player with higher upside than Lowry? Or, do you keep him, extend his contract and see where this young team takes you?
DeRozan is having his best year as a pro and seems to have turned a corner into a player that can lead a team and close out games. Ross is just scratching the surface of his potential and we haven’t seen the best out of Jonas Valanciunas yet. Does the franchise want to mess with the current success? Would trading Lowry even mess with that current success?
Keeping Lowry long-term allows the Raptors to continue growing together. It also eliminates the problem of not having a point guard moving forward. The Raptors would either have to acquire one through the draft or through free agency in the off-season unless they are banking on Greivis Vasquez being the point guard of the future.
Lowry may be their best option going forward.
Then again, maybe the plan is to get a high pick and take a point guard like Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State or Zach LaVine out of UCLA. Perhaps free agency has an option the Raptors might look at like Eric Bledsoe, Ramon Sessions or Avery Bradley. None of which are sure-fire options or much better than what Lowry may be able to provide. Add to that a trade involving Lowry would likely bring in a young player or some assortment of future draft picks and you have a lot of factors to consider before you move Lowry.
Masai Ujiri is faced with one of his most difficult decisions as general manager of this team. The fate of Lowry will have an immediate and far-reaching effect on this franchise. There is no clear choice to be made and fans may have to wait another month or so before the final decision is ultimately made.
One thing is certain, if we are to believe the words of Ujiri, This team will not finish in ‘no-mans land’. There will be a clear choice made as to where the Raptors are going to go this year.
What that choice is exactly, will have everything to do with the future of the Raptors starting point guard.