Is It Time To Reward Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry With A Legacy Deal?


As the Toronto Raptors prepare to defend their NBA championship, club president Masai Ujiri has spoken out about how he wants to put some respect on Kyle Lowry’s name.

“Kyle has an incredible legacy here that we have all underrated,” Ujiri said. “The inner core of who he is as a player and what he’s done in this franchise, he deserves that. There’s legacy status for him.”

Lowry is going into the last year of a three-year, $100 million contract, including $93 million that was guaranteed. In 2019-20, Lowry will earn a base salary of $33 million and an incentive bonus of $1.7 million.

Lowry was the most important Toronto player next to Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs and his heart and passion were on display for the basketball world to see.

The 14-year veteran point guard has spent the past seven years in Toronto, and up until last season, he was undervalued, certainly by fans, because he couldn’t seem to lift the Raptors on his shoulders and carry them past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But today, the world is looking at Lowry a bit differently after his performance in the playoffs when he averaged 15 points a game and helped seal the franchise’s first championship with a 26-point performance, including 10 assists, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that Lowry is the most important player in franchise history, with Kawhi Leonard No. 2 and DeMar DeRozan No. 3.

The championship has muted talk about trading Lowry to restock the team after the departures of Leonard to the L.A. Clippers and Danny Green to the L.A. Lakers.

It somehow seems fitting now that the 33-year-old Lowry should finish his career in Toronto. There doesn’t seem to be a taste for moving him to another club late in his career.

When you look back, you think of New York Knicks’ cornerstone center Patrick Ewing and how weird it was to see him finish off his career in Seattle and Orlando. He had spent 15 years with the Knicks and is still identified as a Knick.

The same with center Hakeem Olajuwon. He will always be identified as a Houston Rocket, where he spent 17 seasons. It didn’t seem right that he would finish off his legendary career in Toronto in 2001-02.

For now, Lowry doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere. He had been considered a trade chip along with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who are also on expiring contracts. But twice, Lowry has signed contract extensions to remain in Toronto.

Lowry and Ujiri have clashed at times, most famously when Ujiri traded his good friend and loyal Raptor DeMar DeRozan. But the bold move resulted in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green coming to Toronto and winning a title. But Lowry and Ujiri have patched things up and they seem to have a mutual respect.

The Raptors might think differently about Lowry had they intended to tank this season to rebuild for the future after losing Leonard and Green. But the Raptors clearly have a rebuilding plan with the pieces they already have in place.

It will be interesting to see how the Raptors manage the minutes this season of Lowry and Gasol, the club’s two oldest players. There has been talk of load management, which was a term that applied last season to Leonard. Gasol will be 35 in January and Lowry will be 34 in March.

With training camp under way in Quebec City, Lowry has been held out of contact drills and scrimmages as he recovers from surgery on his left thumb in July.

Gasol has also been eased into training camp. The center had roughly 10 days after winning the FIBA World Cup for Spain before he reported to the Raptors.

If those two veterans need a night off once in a while, the club is going to do it. After all, the Raptors were 17-5 last season in games when Leonard was rested. The Raptors have more depth than many might expect, and that depth should sustain them if Lowry and Gasol take some nights off.

The starting lineup will feature Pascal Siakam, who is coming off a season in which he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. The Raptors can hand Siakam an extension worth up to $170 million until Oct. 21, the day before the Raptors first game. He could also get a new deal next summer, when the Raptors will be able to match any outside offer.

Lowry and Gasol are the other confirmed regulars. Major assets who figure to earn regular playing time are Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Patrick McCaw.

This may not be a championship roster. But this looks like a sure-fire playoff contender.

For now, Lowry says he’s not thinking about becoming a free agent, and that there are ongoing talks between the Raptors and his camp.

The Raptors will soon hang the championship banner in the rafters at Scotiabank Arena. And it seems likely that Lowry’s No. 7 will someday be raised to those heights as well.