If Lowry leaves in free agency, what should the Raptors do?

If you’re tired of reading reaction to Kyle Lowry to Miami rumors, I feel your pain. It’s just as, if not more painful, to write about the whole ordeal.

Before we get any further, let’s lay the cards out on the table. The Raptors, on paper, are the favorites to land Lowry.

First, the Raptors can offer him a large contract and a stable situation. The importance of salary and term cannot be overstated for Lowry. Through his eight seasons in the league, Lowry has only been paid $28.8 million in total for his play. He has a shoe deal with Peak, but aside from that, he has no significant endorsement income to my knowledge. This is his one chance to get paid, and he won’t pass that up.

A stable situation should also entice Lowry. His personality dictates that he has to be the leader. This led him to clash with coaches early on his career, but he’s finally found a place in Toronto where his leadership, both on and off the court, is welcome. He can be assured of his role on this team, as the Raptors sorely lack play-making. He’s free to be the star with the ball in his hands.

No other team can offer Lowry both control and money. If he goes to the Lakers, he’ll have to exist in a narrow niche between Kobe’s ego and shadow. If he goes to Miami, he’ll have to defer to three other players, while taking far less money. The same applies for the Kings, Suns, Rockets, everywhere. The market is in Toronto’s favor.

However, there still is a distinct chance that Lowry leaves. Again, it’s unlikely, but it would be wise to have a contingency plan.

Option 1: Stay the course, find band-aid solutions

If Lowry leaves, the roster will still have a young core in Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan to build around. Masai Ujiri will have a fair bit of cap room at his disposal, of which he can expend half on re-signing Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson. That should leave him with about $10 million to attract a free-agent to bolster the roster.

Make no mistake about it — Lowry’s contributions will be nearly impossible to replicate with just one player. His play this past season were deserving of All-NBA recognition. His departure would leave the Raptors without their main play-maker, a strong perimeter defender, and a three-point shooting threat. There is no other point guard on the market who could replace that.

However, a pair of restricted guards in Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe could conceivably come close. Bledsoe is moot point, as Suns GM Ryan McDonough has it on the record that they’ll match any offers floated his way. Luckily, the Kings aren’t nearly as bullish on Thomas, but the diminutive guard doesn’t come close to Lowry on the defensive side of the ball, and his size would limit the Raptors’ ability to play small-ball without consequence.

The other possibility would be to promote a re-signed Vasquez to the starting lineup, and patch up the back-up spot via the draft. Two of the most frequently mentioned names around our comment section are Tyler Ennis and Elfrid Payton. Although both players will likely struggle in their rookie season, the Raptors could conceivably get by with either at backup.

If Ujiri spends the money on a position other than point guard, he should look to add playmaking and ball-handling. Unfortunately, there’s not much out there that is available (unless you like the Raptors’ chances at LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony). Ujiri could sign Luol Deng, who would be an upgrade at small-forward, but fans should be concerned about his health given the way Tom Thibodeau maniacally drives his players into the ground. His defense is also a tad overrated, and he’s somewhat limited in his playmaking.

Rather, if at all possible, the Raptors should look to poach some useful assets from middling teams. Players like Arron Afflalo and Thaddeus Young both have repeating consonants in their names and skills that the Raptors need. A package of the 20th pick and Ross should be enough to entice either Orlando or Philadelphia into parting ways with their veterans. If Ujiri were to put future picks into play, it’s conceivable that both players could be had. A lead three of Young, Afflalo and DeRozan would easily spell a return to the postseason.

Option 2: Tear it down, watch it burn

The other route for Ujiri is to turn the ship back to a rebuild. It would be extremely unlikely, as the Raptors’ current franchise timeline portends a competitive team come 2016 for the NBA All-Star game. It would also undoubtedly piss off the team’s lone All-Star in DeRozan.

Rebuilding likely spells the end for Patterson and Vasquez. Their contributions wont be needed if the goal is for the Raptors is to lose. Vasquez will sign on somewhere to be an excellent back-up, while Patterson’s three-point shooting at the four should entice quite a few general managers. Unfortunately, Amir Johnson would also be moved for a pick.

Shedding all four of Johnson, Vasquez, Patterson and Lowry leaves huge gaps for Valanciunas, Ross and their draft pick to grow into. That runs the risk of developing talent like the Kings and Jazz have done, where inexperience breeds poor play, but not everyone can be so lucky as Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.

If they fill the roster with mostly spent young talents and veterans on their last legs, the Raptors should have plenty of cap room in 2015. With both Fields and Hayes expiring, the team should have upwards of $40 million at their disposal.

The hope then would be to cash in on their young assets, and try to build a team on the fly through free-agency and trades. A high lottery pick, coupled with a younger player in Ross or Valanciunas, should make the Raptors an interesting trade partner should a superstar becomes available. If they manage to land someone, he, alongside DeRozan, should make for an solid core to contend, especially if Ujiri manages to translate the remainder of the cap room into useful role players or a free-agent superstar.

Of course, if they don’t land a superstar, they’ll be left with nothing but youth. That’s not necessarily bad, but they don’t have a signature young talent that truly boasts franchise player potential unless someone really distinguishes themselves.

  • Stu Jackson

    Ross is already greater than Affalo and Young

    • DDayLewis

      How so?

    • Alex Vostrikov

      I can see “your” nuts…. literally.
      ross is no where near to be a starter. he had a handful of good games last year, and one super performance. that’s it. with the raps, he was given the spot, regardless his performance.
      affalo is what raps wish ross becomes in 5 years.

  • DDayLewis

    Sorry to anyone who saw the rash of spelling errors in the first edition of this post. They’ve been fixed (maybe)

  • blackjitsu

    If trades are in the mix, how about going after Reggie Jackson? Or depending what the Jazz do next Thursday, Trey Burke?

  • bad idea

    trading young middling pieces for older middling pieces is something BC would’ve done.

    • DDayLewis

      Young is 25 (turns 26 in a few days) and Afflalo is 28. They’re fine players on losing teams.

    • raptorstand

      Horrible article, option 2 is such a pile of steaming horse crap. Relax Kyle is not going anywhere. How you people can run down Ross and Val is beyond me. They had great years and are going to be that much better next year, its called maturing in a system. We have a great solid players in a system that are just going to get better. I cant believe after this year , people still cant see what is right in front of them, good young players maturing into greatness , this is just the beginning , wake the f up.

      • DDayLewis
        • raptorstand

          You know why you have to wrap that little dog in duct tape don’t ya ?

      • asifyouknow

        Option 2 would be a great idea if the want to go back to the original plan.. My dear God were you not one the tank supports?…..Option #2 would be tanking a year later…lol

  • matt

    Lowry’s staying in Toronto. I think he’s already made it pretty obvious he wants to stay. Of course his camp’s gonna express his interest in other teams just to get the Raptors to increase their money offer to him

    • mcm1

      Agree. Like the article says on Paper it’s a fit but you never know….if he does leave it won’t be for the money or ego. It will be for a championship now.

  • asifyouknow

    Ujiri had a plan and it was intercepted by something called winning….His intention was to build from the ground up..Mr. lou’s option two will probably be the road taken…

    • DDayLewis

      It’s a really tough PR sell though. It would really damage the Raptors’ #brand if they squandered all the momentum they generated this year.

    • DC

      No way, Jose!

  • dunkmycat7

    Option number 2 isn’t an option.
    It’s total capitulation, aa total unmitigated disaster, and from this Raptors fan TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE after the year they had.
    But forget about what I think – I think the fans totally REVOLT if they try to blow it up.
    Actually anything other than making this team BETTER in the offseason is totally unacceptable.
    Masai – you better be ON IT .

    .

  • leftovercrack

    Hopefully Lowry will stay, if he doesn’t I think the way to go is re-sign Greivis draft Ennis or Elfrid Peyton, and use the money saved on Lowry to make a pitch for a real SF

  • webfeat

    Option2 might be the smart move, 2016 All star game notwithstanding. DD’s value is likely quite good right now, so moving him so that TRoss can start at the 2 might make sense, development wise. Let it burn for two years and see where we are after adding three or more (through trades) first rounders. We as a fan base have to realize that sometimes you gotta get worse to get better. The alternative is to end up like the Leafs…

    • noname

      we are never going to end up like the leafs…and i’m also a diehard leafs fan so I know what I’m talking about. Never gonna happen…

      • Haim not Feldman

        Luckily for Raps fans/perps, basketball has a quicker turnaround from suck team to contender provided the GM knows what he’s doing. If Lowry is gone, Famous Greivis is a decent stop gap until Ennis becomes elite or at least at the level of Carter-Williams.

    • Alex Vostrikov

      ross as starting SG? lol

  • Rap fan 2

    It’s no big deal. If he leaves someone else will get an opportunity to play and earn more minutes. Kyle earned a new big contract. Hopefully he stays. Either way I wish him the best.

  • keith

    Both options smell of loser mentality and the idea that this team is nothing without Lowry. Its pathetic! If Lowry leaves the only options are NOT trade young assets for slightly above avg players that “inexperience breeds poor play” already. Young and Afflalo won’t lead a winning team. And shipping out everything for a mythical Super Free Agent in 2016 is so Colangeloesque!

    How about drafting a PG to tandem with Vasquez and know that Ujiri is the master at making value out of other teams waste. I won’t be surprised if Ujiri deals for another first rounder to add more depth to the core that is still here ready to win.

    But then again, believing that Lowry will leave is thinking like a loser anyway. He stays and Ujiri adds more pieces to a playoff team. As you said, what situation out there is better?

    And I’m not attacking Will, just stating the options are the two worst possible options one could argue and I don’t think Will believes in them. Just fodder.

    • DDayLewis

      Ehh, I wouldn’t be entirely stoked about either, but I really don’t see a better option. No offense, but the idea of a rookie PG, plus a discarded scrap plucked by Ujiri replacing Lowry’s impact is ridiculous. Lowry’s importance to this team’s success really can’t be understated.

      • tecumseh18

        Sure it can. “Lowry had minimal importance to the success of this team”. See – I understated it. OTOH, it would be impossible to overstate the importance of Lowry to the team last season.

        Aging veterans on expensive, long-term contracts are not something to be jumped into. Of course, Masai is obligated to try and resign Lowry at a reasonable number, but we’ll deal with however the situation unfolds. Ennis, GV and de Colo are an intriguing threesome.

        • DDayLewis

          Lol okay you got me there.

          I’m not very fond of those three names. There’s not a single starter between the three.

          • Abused Raptors Fan

            You’ve gotta like Payton’s potential and skill set though. No?

            • DDayLewis

              I’d like him a lot more if he had a jumpshot. His stock has climbed so much of late that I’d be surprised if he were available at no. 20.

  • jakdripr

    How is Young defensively? He’s one of those players whose name I’ve always heard, but don’t really know a whole lot about. He looks like he has the build to be a solid defensive player, and he’s relatively young so even if Lowry stays I don’t think I’d be against trading for him. He’d give us more depth at the power forward position and also alleviate some pressure from Amirs ankles, but it’ll probably mean 2pat wouldn’t be coming back since I’m not sure how the rotations would work if he did.

    • DDayLewis

      He’s really solid. Has the size to guard bigger wings, enough quickness to guard on the perimeter, and has good instincts. I’d say he’s close to Deng in that respect.

      • jakdripr

        Lol, I was actually thinking he looked like Deng after watching some of his videos. Definitely wouldn’t mind picking him up if we aren’t giving up anyone too important.

        • DDayLewis

          He can’t knock down threes like Deng can though, which worries me if he’s playing at SF.

          • jakdripr

            How would you feel about us starting him at PF instead and moving Amir to the bench? The defence would probably suffer a great deal so it probably wouldn’t be the best idea.

            • DDayLewis

              I wouldn’t make it a permanent arrangement, but Young is a really effective small-ball four that can actually attack the hoop.

      • Wes mantooth

        I actually think Thad young is better than deng. Atleast when he plays the raps. He’s a hustler with great touch. An all around underrated guy. I’ve always thought he could be a star. A combo of him demar and an improved Hakeem tutored val is a step sideways if not a little better. GV is capable of starting. I love Kyle but our size was our downfall last year. Any situation that gets us young is great. We’re too small with Ross starting at sf

        • DDayLewis

          Well it’s possible that they could keep Lowry and still get Young. A future pick plus an expiring contact could get it done.

  • raptorspoo

    Here’s what’s going to happen:
    1. Lowry is going to leave. For those of you who don’t think so, you’re too young to remember or an immigrant who just became a new Raptors fan. Also, if you’ve been watching what he says and does, you’ll know that the writings all over the wall.
    2. We’re going to pick option #1 because Raptors management will be pressured to stay the course as fans have no patience and their expectations are not rationalized.
    3. We’re going to realize that this team is not so good soon afterwards, panic and go to a variation of option #2 & #1 …just as BC was doing by trying to tank yet make the playoffs at the same time (look up dictionary definition: oxymoron)

    • raptorsupandcoming

      Your comments are completely false and uneducated. What happened with the raps this year, was a winning culture was created. Lowry is resigning even if it means less money. This team is top three next year in east. They have huge assets in jonas, ross, vasquez and demar who with bit more develpement ( this next year ) will turn this team to be a force to be wreckened with in the east. This team has champiomship contender written all over it starting as soon as next year.

      • raptorspoo

        re quote: “expectations are not rationalized”. I love your positive attitude though.

        I’m sorry but Lowry would ‘not’ take less money to stay with Toronto. He ‘might’ stay with Toronto to get tremendously overpaid.

  • lucky last

    GV full time minutes
    Plus we save a heap of money and upgrade elsewhere.
    Derozen Ross and JV with 1 more year experience will be DEADLY.
    With or without Lowry they will be fine.
    Lowry is injury prone.
    Pay him the money and watch the injuries come.
    We will be fine without him. Pieces are in place.

  • ckh26

    Like it if Kyles comes back. Really do. Hope he does. However iff he chooses to go elsewhere as one of the other posters says there is no need to feel the sky just fell in on our heads and we should waive the flag and capitulate.

    We can plan for Kyle going by drafting either of a SF or PG at the 20 spot. If there is another guy still on the board in the lower 20 range we could swap out our 2016 first from the Knicks for that guy in the 25-28 range who might play SF or PF or PG.
    Going into July 1 you now have a whack of flexibility of Kyle doesn’t sign. The money ear marked for Kyle and if its in the cards that one of Amir or PPat walk then we will have north of 13.5M in cap money to spend
    Thats a pretty hefty bankroll that can buy us a very good and established SF (Deng ?) or perhaps take a run at a young PF who doesn’t seem to fit in Detroit – Greg Monroe.
    Its a change. No Kyle at crunch time but rather GV the drafted PG (Ennis or Payton ?) and De Colo as reserve as the rookie learns the ways of the NBA. Changes but not necessarily a bad ones and we still look good going forward with more cap space in 2015 and our first rounder as well.

  • Gary73

    Afflalo for TRoss (+ a pick) is crazy in my book. AA is all he will ever be while TRoss has diplayed too much potential to give up on now. I also think TR is better suited as a 2, and I suspect few share this opionion, but I think Raps should deal DD, and likely Amir too. Use them to get, thru draft or FA, a stopper 3 who can shoot, and a more dominant rim-protecting 4. Now I realize making those moves may convince Lowry to depart, but am confident that GV and a drafted point can fill the slack.

  • CJT

    I am really glad to see that the polarization of last winters tank vs. the world has settled down this year. A lot more readers seem to believe that with or without a player like KL, the team has good pieces and can hopefully compete regardless. I would love to have Kyle with us, but am not prepared to throw all of our good pieces away if he leaves for draft picks.

  • Jensan

    Option 2- was last year’s philosophy , unfortunately for management- the players stepped up to the plate. Now MU is paid big monies, this is where he earns his keep.
    He did well last year, now if he is different from the other Gm , if he loses KL, than what does he bring to the plate this year.
    IMO KL stays and Salmons , Novak and Psycho are traded for a 15/16 million dollar one year rental plus a quality prospect or a 1st round pick.
    My question would you trade Salmons + Psycho+ Amir for Barnes and Lee

    • DDayLewis

      Nope. Giving up Amir to pay a tonne to Lee? Nah.

  • p00ky

    if lowry leaves he is a bitch ass nigger, plain and simple

  • asifyouknow

    “Meanwhile, ex-Raptor Rudy Gay has decided to exercise his option for the final year of his contract and will earn more than $19.3 million from the Sacramento Kings next season.”

    LMAO…That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “GREAT TRADE”…lol

    • DDayLewis

      On the same day that Bargnani opts in as well.

      Good lord he avoided 30 million in dead weight salary, freed up possessions for the young players, allowed the team to succeed, netted some expiring salary in return, scored three draft picks and they now hold the rights to Greivis and 2Pat.

      GM god.

      • asifyouknow

        He is the best GM in the NBA, there is no doubt in my mind that with patience this guy will bring Canada a championship………..
        He would make great used car salesman…lol

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