Dec 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) reacts after making a three-point shot against the New York Knicks at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Does Kyle Lowry remain a Raptor? Part 1 of 2

Fans of the Toronto Raptors have been treated to a brilliant season from their point guard, Kyle Lowry. He has done everything one could ask: he’s averaging 15+ points PG [per game], and sports a much-improved assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.17/1. Kyle rebounds remarkably well for a small man, and is an excellent defender. There’s no indication of him causing any issues in the locker room, and even his habit of battling with his coach seems to have dissipated. Kyle is playing great – so let’s trade him.

Dec 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives uncontested to the basket against the New York Knicks during the first quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Stay with me, please; there are all kinds of caveats I’m going to attach to my counterintuitive notion. What got me thinking about trading him is his contract status, or lack thereof. His current deal expires this season, after which he will be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), unless he re-signs with the Raptors prior. It’s entirely possible and reasonable for Kyle to have no interest in re-signing in Toronto, now or in the summer, until he dips his toe in the free-agent waters. Nonetheless, Toronto GM Masai Ujiri is duty-bound to put a contract under his nose, soon…really soon. Those of us with long memories will recall the fiascoes which resulted when first Tracy McGrady, then Chris Bosh, pretended they were interested in receiving a new deal from the Raptors, then bolted at their first opportunity. Bryan Colangelo, when faced with the same situation with a different player (Jose Calderon), decided he wasn’t going to get burned again, and dealt Jose while he could (the fact the trade for Rudy Gay failed does not diminish the rightness of Colangelo’s action, even though I deplored it at the time).

As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, it’s deja vu all over again. Here are the choices, in order of my preference:

  1. Sign Kyle to a 3-year contract [I'll discuss money in Part 2].
  2. Trade him before the deadline of February 20, 2014.
  3. Let his contract lapse, and hope he re-signs as a UFA.

Here’s where it get sticky. If Masai gets a sense from Kyle’s camp that either he won’t be returning to Toronto under any circumstances, or he won’t sign until after the season (maybe!), the situation changes. He can’t slip away for nothing a la McGrady and Bosh, and my preference shifts to a trade.

[Full timeout: I haven't changed my religion, or crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the Opposition; in other words, I've not suddenly become a member of Tank Nation if I advocate, most reluctantly, a trade of Kyle Lowry. This situation is a one-off, and has nothing to do with the upcoming Draft. If Masai manages to pry away a juicy draft pick from his trade partner, that's dandy, but it's a bonus, and beyond the scope of my speculation. I'll publish a few trade packages shortly, and if you have any to share in the meantime, please drop them into the Comments.]

Watch for Part 2, in which I’ll offer my view on where Kyle sits in the NBA point guard hierarchy, what that means financially to the club, and what might a Kyle-less Raptor team look like.

I’d enjoy hearing from you, so please Comment.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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