Even after Kawhi Leonard undercut the Raptors’ championship defense before it began, Toronto refused to trade veterans Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. A year later, the Raptors watched Gasol and Ibaka leave for no return in restricted free agency.
Will Toronto trade Lowry – who’s on an expiring contract – rather than risk the same fate with him next summer?
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:
There is a portion of Raptors personnel, league sources said, that believes the franchise should bid its beloved All-Star farewell and begin Toronto’s next chapter in earnest.
There are two big differences between Gasol/Ibaka last season and Lowry this season:
- The Raptors were much better last year. They’ve slipped 10-13 and 9th in the Eastern Conference. Though there’s reward in competing for the playoffs, it’s not as satisfying as attempting to make a deep postseason run.
- Gasol and Ibaka were closer to mercenaries. Lowry is beloved in Toronto.
That said, the Lowry-Raptors relationship has been fraught. Toronto talked seriously with the Knicks about a Lowry trade in 2013 and 2014. Even after winning the title, Lowry reportedly demanded a trade or contract extension. (He got the extension.)
Heck, Lowry might not have even been around for the championship if one variation of the Gasol trade with the Grizzlies went through.
Toronto also discussed Lowry before the February 2019 trade deadline with Memphis, according to league sources, and almost added him to that eventual Jonas Valanciunas package, which would have landed Mike Conley with the Raptors alongside Marc Gasol. Those negotiations were so advanced, sources said, Lowry himself was made aware of the talks, and Grizzlies officials even told other front offices they were nearing a deal. Toronto sniffed the market for Lowry before the 2020 deadline as well, sources said.
It wasn’t hard to see this coming. Lowry is a good player, 34 years old and on expiring contract. He might hold more value to a team closer to a championship (though his $30.5 million salary is high enough to complicate potential trades).
Fred VanVleet is Toronto’s long-term answer at lead guard. He’s already playing at a near-star level.
It might be time to turn the page.
That said, there’s also something to sentimentality, especially with a championship already in tow. The Raptors continuing to compete as hard as they can with Lowry – no matter where that leads – can be gratifying.
Like with practically all trade talks, whether a team should pull the trigger depends on what’s offered in return.