The full 2005-2006 season after Vince Carter left town in a mid-season trade the year prior, the Toronto Raptors finished with a poor 27-55 record. In 2010-2011, the first year without all-star power forward Chris Bosh, the Raptors had the 3rd worst season (22-60) in franchise history. These are the results of the team’s best players leaving the organizations in the dust; VC arguably “giving up” on the team, and Bosh leaving to play with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade in Miami. In the VC trade, the Raptors never acquired anything of equal talent, and the Bosh sign-&-trade gave nothing in return but a trade player exception (TPE), which was eventually used to acquire Rudy Gay from Memphis.
These results in history show that the Raptors cannot live without their star players, or anything close to them. Kyle Lowry is that main man for this team, and while many believe he is likely to stay put, the same thoughts were speculated when Chris Bosh’s eventual final season ended. Lowry may or may not be a loyal man, but the fact remains— if he walks, the team is in serious trouble. Truth be told, all that success the team experienced this past year can be written off if Lowry isn’t wearing red and white next season.
His consistency all season has been the biggest factor in the Raptors’ success this past year. Lowry’s history includes troubles with coaches, and weight problems, which all may have led to injuries side-lining him constantly. The 2012-13 season was one of Lowry’s worst as a starting calibre point guard. However, he changed all of that this year, coming from the summer lighter, quicker, and fit for the grueling 82 game season. He was the most consistent player for the Raps this past campaign, posting 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game. During the playoffs, he averaged 21.1 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in seven games against the Brooklyn Nets.
He was also a top 10 player in win shares with 11.7, ranking 8th in the entire league – which illustrates that his impact was a main factor of the Raptors getting victories. He finished the year ranking above guys like Joakim Noah, Paul George, and Damian Lillard in this stat. There’s absolutely no argument as to how important Lowry is to this ball club, especially with this current roster make-up. The system and style compliment Lowry incredibly well, and this is why he’s been able to breakout as one of the best point guards in the game today.
Offensively, he was one of the very best in the entire league at scoring, creating for teammates, and making big shots. Lowry was top 15 in the entire league in offensive rating at 118.2, 8th in offensive win shares at 8.4, 6th in total assists, 7th in assists per game at 7.4, 7th in point guard scoring, 13th in 3-point percentage, and 8th in most attempts at the free-throw line. While we have thrown an assortment of statistics out there, these are just the paper examples of how strong of an individual he was for the Raptor offense. A lot of what the Raptors did focused around his ability to penetrate and kick, run the pick-&-roll, and initiate sets to get the guys the ball in the right places. Like a point guard should be, he was the catalyst – and no small one at that. He really turned into an elite offensive point guard.
On the defensive side of things last year, he was one of the worst in terms of individuals playing in the Raptors’ defensive system. He gambled, played the passing lanes far too often, and tried to make the home-run play defensively by creating turnovers. More often than not, it led to open lanes to the basket, forcing the back-line – Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and company – to worry about the inside penetration, leaving their assignments, which created scrambles and rotation problems. This season, he’s become a pitbull and a nuisance to opposing guards. He was 8th in the league in point guards in steals at 1.5 a game, and led the league in charges taken.
This current Raptors system is built on natural progression, year by year improvements, and continuity. Lowry is a core piece. If he walks in free agency, the Raptors’ current trek to become a contender takes a major step back. Finding a replacement who is could have the same impact and success as Lowry would be an incredibly tough task for Masai Ujiri to accomplish.
There really isn’t a point guard out there that would fit into Dwane Casey‘s system as well as Kyle Lowry; a defensive point guard, who excels at running the pick-&-roll, and creates shots for others via penetration. For example, plugging in players like Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague, or even a Damian Lillard, may not pass the same success which Lowry had, the same success that made a huge impact on one of the best teams in the NBA, and emulated exactly what Casey had envisioned.
One could argue that the chemistry of the team this past season was arguably the best ever in franchise history. Lowry himself mentioned that this was the best group of guys in a locker room he’s ever had. Terrence Ross admitted Lowry was like a big brother, DeMar DeRozan echoed the sentiments by calling Lowry a sibling. Amir, Jonas, Greivis Vasquez and many others in the organization have all emphasized how important it is for the team to lock Lowry up. This franchise has not been good in terms of consistency, but that’s subject to change with Ujiri at the head of basketball operations mentioning that it’s going to be a “priority” to bring back the team’s leader.
To sum it all up, if Lowry walks, the team’s path to success could become uncertain pretty fast. Lowry is the engine that runs the team’s offence, the head of the snake defensively, and the leader who has put the Raptors upon his shoulders in times of adversity. Specifically, where does this team go if he walks? Mediocrity, again, which is worse than a losing season, or finishing short of the now heightened expectations. The Raptors likely become a team barely scratching the surface of the playoffs, or not bad enough to acquire a high draft pick. With that being said, there are very few – when I mean few, I mean barely a handful of players – in terms of replacements that could have the same production, success, and impact all in one.
So, we end off with a message. Kyle Lowry, please don’t leave Toronto. You have been the biggest individual out of 15 brothers that have contributed to the best season in Toronto Raptors history, and you’re fully appreciated not just in the Toronto or Ontario area, but across this entire country. Canada is wishing for you to return to the red and white because you were the guy that led this team to a place we haven’t seen in years. We’re still hungry for more and we know you are too. Lowry, please re-sign.
All Raptor fans across Canada, and the world.