Lowry, deemed too much of a distraction just two years ago by the Rockets and sent to Toronto for a first-round pick and Gary Forbes then, is now on the Rockets’ wish list. According to reports, though, a second go-round in Houston is not in the cards for Lowry. The team would require a sign-and-trade to fit him into its complex plans and Raptors’ Masai Ujiri is not about to facilitate that. Ujiri, like the rest of the NBA seems to, covets Lowry and wants him back in Raptors colours. It was Ujiri and his head coach Dwane Casey who were next up in Philadelphia filling in Lowry’s afternoon hours. Waiting in the wings and not yet granted an audience according to a report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski were representatives from both the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Lowry apparently needed some time to digest the first two visits before any more pitches were made.
The Rockets are a curious suitor in that their GM, Daryl Morey, traded Lowry away for what ended up being the 12th pick the 2013 draft in part because Lowry and Rockets head coach Kevin McHale were in constant conflict. It was shedding that reputation as being a difficult player to coach that has been perhaps his most important accomplishment in Toronto and has set him up for a career payday. But landing him in Houston at the kind of money sources say he’s expecting — nothing less than $40 million over four years, even in income tax-friendly Texas — would likely require the Raptors to facilitate a sign-and-trade, a non-starter for the Raptors unless Lowry tells them he absolutely won’t play for them anymore, which is far from the case.
Since Lowry has timed his career year with his entry onto the free agent market, it’s also likely that he just hit the apex of his potential dollar-per-production efficiency. Many teams have been in pursuit of his services, and I for one am surprised that the Raptors are offering Lowry a long-term contract valued at twice the annual total of his previous deal. Most General Managers certainly feel no obligation in retaining players acquired by a previous regime, so Ujiri must see significant and hard-to-replace value in Lowry’s game. Lowry demands the ball in his hands at all times as an offensive player. The play that the Raptors ran most often for Lowry was a pick-and-roll, which accounted for 38.5% of Lowry’s offensive possessions. Amir Johnson, one of Lowry’s cohorts in the Raptors starting lineup, is one of the best screen-setters in the league, and their frequent collaborations were astoundingly efficient. As a ballhandler in the pick-and-roll, Lowry is a master at reading the defense and using the disruptive event of the screen to his personal advantage. Lowry is adept at using either “side” of the screen to do whatever it takes to keep his defender off-balance — and Lowry is almost immediately in the key whenever his man slightly falters off-balance. Defending Lowry’s pick-and-rolls requires a total team concept. The defender who is guarding the screener — usually Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas – must not sag back to prevent penetration. Lowry is too adept at leading his own defender right into the screen, and can create a wide-open shot for himself if help isn’t coming.
It’s been reported that Shaun Livingston has come to terms on a three-year $16 million free agent deal with the Warriors which should set the market for above average backup point guards who can start if necessary and make an impact at important parts of a game.
Masai Ujiri miraculously turned an expiring contract into a decent bench scorer and an asset that might turn out to be good. Just like he turned Rudy Gay’s massive contract into a couple good role players and an expiring, just like he turned cancer Andrea Bargani’s corpse and his absurd contract into a future first round pick and two second round picks. I’m almost at a point where I would trust whatever move he makes. You want to draft some 18 year old Brazilian who is so raw that he’s two years away from being two years away? YOU GO FOR IT MASAI.
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