Toronto Raptors: Was Re-signing Lowry and Ibaka A Mistake?


With DeMar DeRozan gone and with only one guaranteed year of Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors now seem ready to prepare for a rebuild after this upcoming season. Accordingly, many people have questioned the appropriateness of the Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka re-signings – were they mistakes?

Let’s be straight up about it, it is of the utmost importance to note that both players were re-signed after the 2016/17 NBA season.

At that time, this team and its fans seemed entirely intent on competing, unwilling to accept mediocrity and unprepared for a rebuild. While things may look different when the contracts for Leonard, Lowry and Ibaka all expire, at the time of these re-signings, Toronto was clearly intent on trying to compete for the Eastern conference and an NBA title.

Toronto had also just lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals for the first time, a clear regression from the team’s conference finals appearance in 2015/16. However, since this loss happened after Ibaka only played 23 games with the Raptors, hopes were still high – among both Raptors fans and the organization – that a full season with Lowry, Ibaka and DeMar would significantly improve the team.

In other words, the timing was quite sensible for these two particular players to be re-signed – one with a history on this team and a great relationship with the Raptors’ other star, the other a productive player who had been a key player on other teams and looked like a potentially significant addition in Toronto.

To be clear, the terms and dollars of both contracts are a different discussion. Ibaka was 27 years old at the time so he was not too old to be given a three-year deal. Still, giving him 65 million dollars might have been a little unwise financially. In Lowry’s case, giving 100 million dollars to a 31-year-old is also financially irresponsible. In other words, the Raptors could and should have been much smarter with these contracts. However, considering that the topic here is whether their signings – not their contract terms – were a mistake, contract details are innately better reserved for a different piece.

Let’s keep going

The upward-trending regular season play of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry also gave the Toronto Raptors every reason to stick with their star point guard, while adding a player of Serge Ibaka’s caliber.

In the 2016/17 offseason, DeRozan was coming off of a year where he averaged over 27 points and 5 rebounds a game, both career highs. Similarly, Lowry was fresh off averaging a career high 22.4 points per game to go along with 7 assists per contest. In other words, despite the postseason failure, the play of Toronto’s two stars seemingly gave Toronto a good reason to bring back Lowry for the future.

Further, the addition of Serge Ibaka had the potential to be a franchise-altering move for Toronto, especially considering his defensive prowess as a career 2.2 blocks per game player. Therefore, it made great sense to bring back Ibaka for this team, since there was still uncertainty about his true fit in Toronto and the potential existed for him to make a great impact on the squad.

Next. DeRozan's anger over trade won't go away. dark

Overall, although the re-signings of Lowry and Ibaka may look like poor decisions a year later, the team’s situation last offseason makes it extremely difficult to call these transactions a mistake. DeRozan was still in a Raptors uniform. Moreover, Toronto was coming off a disappointing playoff run but likely thought they would improve as Ibaka played a full season with the team. Most of all, there were a lot of reasons – as detailed throughout the article – for the Raptors to stay competitive.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty so it makes sense that opinions on these re-signings seemed to have largely changed in the 13 months since they occurred. It is imperative, however, to look at the circumstances around the time of the actual signings. Through that lens, it would be very difficult to classify the Lowry and Ibaka re-signings as mistakes for the Toronto Raptors.