Why wouldn’t Miami be interested in Lowry’s services? The Heat are less than a week removed from a disheartening trip to the NBA Finals, where they looked vastly inferior to the San Antonio Spurs in a five-game elimination. Their current point guard, Mario Chalmers – also a soon-to-be free agent – was notably ineffective en route to losing his starting job late in the series. And Lowry? Why wouldn’t he want to play in South Beach? Under the right circumstances, accompanied by a suitable contract, you would be hard-pressed to find someone unwilling to play in one of the league’s most desirable destinations with LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet. Therein lies the caveat, and it’s a big one; money. The Heat, under their current construction, can only offer so much of it. Firstly, in order for Miami to put together a passable offer to Lowry or any other prominent free agent, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would need to opt out of their contracts – owing them each more than $20 million over the next two season – to renegotiate smaller deals. Udonis Haslem would likely have to do the same. Lowry, underpaid for most of his eight-year career, has been one of the league’s bargain players, earning just over $6 million last season. At best, Miami – or any other capped out team – may be able to offer something in that neighbourhood.
I don’t know what it’s going to take to sign him – I would think a three-year deal that maybe goes $9 million, $10 million, $11 million with the third year not fully guaranteed might be a good starting point in negotiations – but I know the Raptors are going to give it their best shot. If they have to go to a fourth year to get an edge on other suitors, that’s something they’ll have to consider. Lowry is a key piece here, no question about it; but he will also be coveted around the league and this will be the first big test of this Raptors management. How far will they go to fend off other suitors and can they make the compelling case that this is where Lowry has the best chance to win and have an impact. It’s a different situation than has been faced here for a while, it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds now that it’s starting to percolate in public.
There’s something to be said for continuity. Lowry has experienced breakout success with the Toronto Raptors, and that should probably count for something. The franchise won’t find a better point guard on the open market, and it should go without saying that Greivis Vasquez probably isn’t ready to take over full-time duties at the point. It should come as no surprise that Lowry sounds like he wants to stick around. After Toronto bowed out of the postseason, he told reporters, “This is only the start for us and the Raptors organization.” Us. That’s a telling word. It’s the kind of word Lowry probably wouldn’t have used if he was seriously intrigued with the possibility of going elsewhere. On the other hand, the price has to be right.
Think about it this way. All year Toronto’s scouts prepare their top list of draft options. They’ve already seen these players a ton, and have an idea in their heads of who they like most come June. Then, at the NBA combine, that list gets further solidified as Masai Ujiri and a small group of Raptors’ brass gets to see and talk to these players that the scouts have been talking about all season. But it’s not until the individual workouts that the full group of coaches and trainors gets an opportunity to spend some time with these prospects and that’s a very important piece of the puzzle, more important than the physical paces each prospect is put through. Tolzman reminded me of this process, something that I never felt was treated the same way under the Bryan Colangelo regime. Under BC, you often got the feeling that some players’ pre-draft workouts were actually the deciding factors in their selections, something that should never be the case. As humans are prone to recency bias, an entire collective of work should be used to make crucial decisions such as these.
While acknowledging Terrence’s issues, he deserves commendation for stepping into the starter’s role following the departure of Rudy Gay, and keeping it. His coach told him at the time he hadn’t earned the promotion, but he grew into the job, and was an important contributor to the team’s turnaround.
The opportunities for acquiring another first round draft pick are real. Half of the teams picking in the lottery have multiple first round draft picks, so draft day deals are a distinct possibility – even a likelihood – plus the Cavaliers and the Kings are rumored to be shopping their coveted lottery picks. As always, it will come down to price and the main obstacle to trading first round draft picks has always been teams falling in love with the guy they believe is available. The Cavaliers would like to be a playoff team next year and any deal that could make the postseason a certainty will have their interest, but the price for a first overall draft pick is going to be chokingly high. In the Raptors case, even their All-Star DeMar DeRozan might not be enough to get a deal done on his own. Another tempting Raptors asset is their rapidly developing center Jonas Valanciunas, but moving either of these players would represent taking a step back next season in the hopes of moving forward in the future.
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