The Toronto Raptors are having the most successful period since the franchise’s inaugural season 21 years ago. With success come players wanting to be paid, and Kyle Lowry is going to be a big headache when it’s time to hand him a new deal.
Everything in the NBA works off other contracts. DeMar DeRozan signed a massive deal this offseason? Lowry and his agents are looking at those numbers, and at the $150 million deal signed by Mike Conley, and will be asking for the same. Lowry has a $12 million player option for the 2017-2018 season, but he will respectfully decline. He’s making $12 million this season. The 4-years, $48 million deal he signed in 2014? That seems like a steal now.
How much will Lowry ask for? The max, and he’ll be an 11-year veteran, eligible for the maximum tier salary. That means over $150 million for five years, and Lowry, it’s important to remind, is going to be 31 by the time the 2016-2017 season is over. He is a two-time All-Star; a gold medal winner with Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. Along with DeRozan he has taken the Raptors to the two best regular seasons in franchise history, and the first conference final in Toronto.
But the Raptors, excluding Lowry’s team option, will already be paying $90 million in 2017-2018, just under the salary cap. They’re paying $108 million in salaries this season. This team doesn’t look like a championship team, although Masai Ujiri was pretty quick to turn them from annual disappointment into a regular playoff team, along with great work from Dwayne Casey. The Raptors are a good, very good team at times. Lowry averaged 21.2 points per game last season. He’s putting up 19 and 6.9 assists per game over the last 3 years.
The problem is paying more and more for a team that has a certain, obvious limit, unless they make changes. Giving so much money to Lowry and DeRozan, two players who can create for themselves but aren’t very efficient, aren’t completely trustworthy on the defensive end and aren’t (Lowry for sure, DeRozan might be) even top 5 players in their positions around the NBA, pushed more and more towards making what might be an unpopular decision.
Obviously, a lot will change over this year. Maybe the two sides can sign an extension before the contract expires. It could mean Lowry doesn’t maximize his earning potential, but he does get some insurance for having a bad year in 2016-2017. We’ve seen the Houston Rockets extend James Harden before they had to deal with free agency. The same with the Thunder and Russell Westbrook. The Raptors probably don’t want to hand out another massive contract so soon, but maybe it’s the best solution, if Lowry wants it at all, between seeing him walk away or giving him a max deal they’re not that inclined to see through.