Kyle Lowry

Toronto Raptors Game 5 Summary - Why We Watch Sports

Source: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Source: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

When people ask me why I watch sports, it’s all because of the games like the one on Monday night. Sports provide the biggest roller coaster rides in the world, and it’s rare to have a team you cheer for be successful throughout the duration of you cheering for them. What normally happens is you have very few periods where they’re at the top of the world, and then you’re brought back down to Earth for a very, very, very long time. Along with these periods, there are countless heartbreaks and moments that make you question why you continue to subject yourself to unnecessary stressful and heart-wrenching situations. Last night gave us a prime example of what sports do to people. They make you scream in happiness and hug random strangers, and then the next second your mind is boggled and there’s nothing that can make you feel better. Sports bring out these moments and once they’re over they sit with you for days after until the next game.

Source: Awful Announcing

Source: Awful Announcing

Game Five tested the totality of our emotions. With all the drama and story lines it was hard to focus on our game-plan and during the game I found myself always concerned where Kevin Durant was as opposed to focusing on the Raptors. Prior to the game, Downtown Toronto was electric and I had never seen lines that long for restaurants and bars over four hours before the game. And afterwards it was the longest commute I’d had in ages and the areas surrounding Scotiabank Arena were the quietest it’s been. From the start of the game you could feel nervousness, excitement, euphoria, stress, anxiousness and possibly every emotion you could ever experience, and by the end everyone felt the same way: defeated. 

Source: CityNews Toronto

Source: CityNews Toronto

There is someone else who felt defeated and his name is Kevin Durant. Coming into the series, I wanted to play against KD because I wanted us to beat the best. That being said, I didn’t think he looked ready to play at all and thought we wouldn’t see him (looking back, I wish the Warriors staff realized this too and didn’t put him in). So when I watched the beginning of the game I was surprised at how good his shots looked and I was happy that we were playing against the Warriors’ full roster. But when he pulled up and stopped playing I was immediately saddened. You never want to see anyone get injured, especially when it involves one’s Achilles. To think about all the hard work he put in over the years just to be hindered by this random event breaks your heart. And I know it affected countless fans around the world as well, but I also know there were also people inside Scotiabank Arena and outside the game that did not act as appropriately to this injury.

Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

This has been a huge debate ever since it happened, as people are saying how Canadians acted inappropriately and should be ashamed of their actions, and I know the people who cheered have realized their faults. It was evident they did by their reaction afterwards when they applauded for KD’s effort and chanted his name. My opinion is that it was an honest human reaction to the situation. I think that in any arena in the NBA, some fans would immediately cheer for the injury, not because they’re happy the player was injured, but because their team has an advantage. It’s a horrible response as it takes away from the understanding that it is a person these people are paying thousands of dollars to be entertained by, and it’s the reality that people forget how hard and how much these players have given up just to be playing in that situation. It’s easy to forget that each of these players are human when you watch them for entertainment and I hope that moving forward this is a learning experience for everyone who watched.

It’s not my experience with the people of this city...You understand this is about an individual, a human being and not, ‘oh, shoot he’s out, he’s hurt, we won the championship.’
— Steph Curry

Now, onto the game itself. We lost because we did not play well, it’s as simple as that. The Warriors set a record for 3-pointers made on the road in an NBA Finals Game with 20, and we only made 8. Our defence was not what it was in the prior games and our shooting did not match our efforts earlier on as well. There’s been much discussion as to the last play, but I think it was a great play with Lowry getting off a great shot. It’s just that Draymond played even better defence and somehow managed to get a piece of the ball on its way up. It was painful to watch as we all knew Game Five was the perfect situation to win and how amazing would it have been to have Lowry hit the game-winner after his years of hard work for our team. The emotion we all felt when Kawhi went on his 10-point run was unparalleled as we knew the trophy was minutes away, however we just couldn’t close it out. Like I said earlier, we watch sports to experience the highs that occur, and they wouldn’t feel as amazing if we didn’t experience the lows that come with them.

Source: Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Source: Chris Young / The Canadian Press

There are two possible games left and although we won’t be matched up against arguably the greatest ever team with KD out of the lineup, we have the opportunity to win the only trophy that matters, and we are unbelievably close. Best wishes to KD for his recovery and hopefully we’ll be able to beat him in the Finals to come.

2019 NBA Finals Preview - Raptors vs Warriors

Source: NBC Sports

Source: NBC Sports

Well Raptors fans, we have finally made it. After years of heartache, sweeps, “choke artists” labels, Drake curses and LeBronto memes, the 2019 Toronto Raptors are making their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. If they want to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the Finals, they are going to have to go up against a dynasty team in the Golden State Warriors. Can the Raptors defeat the juggernaut known as the Warriors, or is their experience and roster too much for the Raptors to overcome? I’ll explain to you why I believe the Raptors can de-throne the back to back defending NBA champions, and how they are going to do it.

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Some of you may recall that I wrote a Raptors season preview before the first regular season game, which you can read here. Some things were spot on, others…not so much. Saying this, one thing I did get right was the two teams to meet in this year’s NBA Finals. At the beginning of the year, I put down Warriors in 6, and if a healthy Kevin Durant was entering this series with the Warriors, I would probably stick with the same outcome. We obviously know that this is not the case, and this is a massive blow for the Warriors versus this Raptors team, both offensively and defensively. We have seen in these playoffs that the Warriors know how to play well offensively without Durant, and they have gone back to this high tempo exciting style of basketball that made fans first fall in love with the team pre-Durant era. They have made up for it defensively in the postseason because of the matchups they have faced, but they have not faced anybody quite like Kawhi Leonard without Durant on the floor. KD is the ideal candidate to guard Kawhi defensively, so without him, it forces others to take on this tough assignment. He may see doses of Klay Thompson or Draymond Green on him, but that then takes away from their other “normal” assignments and will leave players such as Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green more open for shots or drives to the hoop. KD is a very underrated defender, and this is where I feel that they will miss him the most. Saying this, they have done really well without Durant on the floor…and I mean REALLY well. A record of 31-1 well to be exact. The Raptors have been defying odds and records all postseason, so it’s time to do the same once again.

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

It was recently announced that Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins will be active for Game One tonight at Scotiabank Arena. While some may be worried about this addition, I welcome it. JD Bunkis of Sportsnet summarized my thoughts perfectly in this tweet:

I think this benefits the Raptors and allows them to play that comfortable lineup with Gasol starting. This probably cuts back Kevon Looney’s minutes, which I’m all for considering he’s had a decent playoff run. Give me all the Cousin’s minutes please. I’m here for it.

I think this is the best defence that the Warriors have played against in their five year run.
— Brian Windhorst, ESPN

You ready for some stats and numbers to be thrown your way? The big key here for the Raptors in this series is going to be their defence. The Raptors are ranked 2nd amongst NBA teams in the postseason in defensive rating at 102.8. Warriors are 8th at 110.8. The Raptors are also the most improved team defensively from the regular season to the postseason in these playoffs. Toronto is limiting teams to 41.7% shooting, while the Warriors are allowing 44.2% shooting. This is important because the Warriors are #1 in the NBA Playoffs in total field goal percentage at 48.7%. Another reason defense is important is because the Warriors are 3-13 this season when held to 105 points or less. That’s…not very good. It also just so happens that the Raptors are holding opponents on average to 99.6 points per game this postseason. That bodes well for the dinos.

Offensively it’s the same narrative for the Raptors: HIT YOUR OPEN SHOTS, especially the three point opportunities. The Warriors are ranked 14th out of 16 in the playoffs in opponent three point percentage, allowing opponents to shoot 41.9% from beyond the arc. The Raptors are ranked 9th in this category allowing 37.4% of shots to drop from beyond the arc. If the Raptors can get the shooting they have been getting from Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Leonard, Gasol and more, then it poses a problem for the Warriors and allows other guys to be aggressive driving to the bucket. If Danny Green can get his shot going again (and I believe he will), that’s another wrinkle that the Warriors will have to look to iron out.

Source: Toronto Sun

Source: Toronto Sun

If the Raptors continue to do the things they have been doing so far in the postseason, it will really test a Warriors team that is making it’s fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. As experienced as they are, this is a new team and a new test for this undermanned squad. With KD out, I like the Raptors chances to win this series in 7 games. Matt Devlin summarized this moment perfectly…we’ve been waiting 24 years for this. Now, it’s our time to show the NBA, the United States and the world why Toronto is the best city with the best NBA team in the world.

Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals - Warriors vs Raptors

Source: Fanatics

Source: Fanatics

Tomorrow, the Toronto Raptors will be playing the Golden State Warriors at Scotiabank Arena in a best-of-seven series to decide who wins the NBA Championship. 

After the past 24 years of ups and downs (with more downs than ups), Raptors’ fans waited year after year for the team’s first chance to become number one in the world. Countless new faces, rebuilding efforts, unforgettable sponsorship deals, and we’re finally here. This playoff run has no doubt been the most stressful we have ever had and therefore it’s been the most rewarding. But after all the excitement that unfolded in Game 6 vs Milwaukee, it’s time to straighten up and understand we still need four more wins.

Going up against a team that has won four of the last five NBA Championships is the reason you won’t see many people giving Toronto a chance. Then again, going up against Milwaukee also wasn’t in the Raptors’ favour. And then if you consider the Warriors adding Demarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant into their lineup this is one of the best teams ever constructed playing against a team that was created only a few months ago. I have to add that coming into this season, I was one of those people that questioned what the point of a regular season was if the Warriors were just going to win again. But after watching more basketball this season than I ever have, my mindset changed. 

Source: National Post

Source: National Post

After some time (the past two days) trying to debate with myself, my prediction is that the Raptors will become NBA Champions. You could say there’s a bias and there might be, but I’m still going with it. The energy around the city and understanding of the Raptors playing in the Finals is something unparalleled and I think not only will it resonate with the Raptors, but it will have an effect on the Warriors as well. They’ve normally had home-court advantage and although you can say they have all the Finals’ experience, I believe that coming into a country that just had one of its biggest sports moments will impact the game in more ways than one. 

I’m looking to see Kawhi take advantage on offence and although it’ll be tough with Klay guarding him, I’m thinking that we’ll see a similar offensive game-plan we saw for the past few games. That being, Kawhi facilitating in the first quarter and letting his teammates shoot the ball before taking over in the second half. However, you can say that this game-plan worked vs Milwaukee as he guarded Giannis and had to work much harder defensively than he will likely work against Draymond. If he’s able to rest on the defensive end and not be forced to switch onto Steph and Klay as often than this strategy will likely change moving forward. 

Now, onto the rest of the Raptors. First, Danny Green will be back. Something that was evident these playoffs is the law of averages, and with all of Danny’s experience you know he’s too good for the ball not to go in after all these shots. With Kyle, I’m expecting him to be more aggressive this series, especially if he’s guarded by Steph. He plays much better when he looks to attack and it will definitely open up shots for players like Green and Gasol. I’m expecting Fred, Norm and Ibaka to bring in similar stats they had in Milwaukee, but Fred’s 3-pt% will likely decrease. Someone I am really excited for is OG and although he’s been out of action, his length, defence and ability to stretch the floor is something that can only help the Raptors.

The Raptors will become NBA Champions
— Derek Gomes

Now, with the analysis behind us, there was something else I wanted to address. I was listening to Nick Nurse and he said that he doesn’t like motivating his team as the “underdogs” in this series and this really stuck with me. Whenever I played sports and we played a team higher than us in the standings, there was the extra motivation that came from being the underdogs and we thrived off that title. And then if you add every other typical sports movie the final part usually involves an “underdog” beating the first-place team in the finals.

But if you think about it from a professionals’ standpoint, their job is to beat whatever team is front of them. Does this mean the Raptors should be more motivated to beat Golden State in a 7-game series than Orlando? Does this mean if they were to lose against Golden State they wouldn’t be disappointed because they weren’t supposed to win in the first place? Now that I think about it, Toronto shouldn’t think of themselves as the underdogs. They need to think of themselves as an equal to Golden State, as another NBA team vying for the same title. They can’t disregard their own success this season when they took a nation to a place it’s never been before. The NBA Finals is a place where two of the best basketball teams in the world compete and the Toronto Raptors is one of them. This mindset might not work for every team, but with all the veterans we have, I think it will resonate better than our mentalities the past few years.

While Thursday night cannot come soon enough, I’m enjoying this five-day break because I know it’s exactly what the Raptors needed. The city hasn’t had this excitement since the Jays in the 90s and everyone on the team can feel it in the air. As soon as the ball is tossed up at 9pm, all of Canada will be watching and it’s incredible that we’re here to witness the Raptors’ greatest season. We thought the past few series were wild, but it will be nothing compared to what we see in these next seven games. 

I can’t imagine what emotions we’ll feel when the Raptors win their first championship and I can’t imagine how Toronto and Canada will react. But it’s time to stop imagining and start watching because the Toronto Raptors are four wins away from an NBA Championship.

You can follow Derek on Twitter @dgomes_11 and you can check out more of his content on Medium: https://medium.com/@derekgomes97

Raptors 2017 Offseason Gradebook

Source: Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Source: Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Masai said it best himself following a sweep by the hands of the Cavs. "We need a culture reset." Well, did he hit the self proclaimed "reset" button?

Somewhat.

Here's my gradebook on the Toronto Raptors 2017 Offseason (so far) and what we can expect from Ujiri and Webster in the future. All categories are listed in sequential order.

We are going to hold everybody accountable because we need to. We need to figure it out.
— Masai Ujiri

Coach

Source: Raptors Republic

Source: Raptors Republic

Masai's first pressing offseason decision came in the form of his head coach Dwane Casey. Just one year into a three-year contract extension, speculation about Casey came after Masai's comments regarding the coach and the play style of the team.

"Because we’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked. It’s easy to defend in my opinion when you play one-on-one. It’s predictable, we feel we have to go in another direction. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it will be the new thing in the league that wins." Masai also added "I think there are times that I think coach did a great job and I think there are times that we struggled."

It wasn't exactly a 'vote of confidence' for the winningest coach in Raptors history, but Masai didn't give anything away regarding his thoughts on the coach's future. Remember that even though Masai gave Casey an extension last season, this still isn't the coach he hired, but rather inherited from the previous regime. Both Masai and Casey acknowledged that changes needed to be made in playing style, and that the hero ISO ball that every Raptors fan hates needs to be eliminated.

A few weeks later, Casey confirmed to media outlets that he would in fact be returning as the head coach of the Raptors squad. This move puzzled many who follow the Dinos considering Masai's remarks. 

I really like Casey. Not only is he a character guy, but he's done incredible things for the Toronto Raptors, and the team may not be in the position its in today if it were not for him. Saying this, the ISO-ball style clearly isn't working, and it will be interesting to see if Casey can adapt. When times get tough, can the team stick to the new style of play, or will the coach and his squad revert back to the old ISO ways? Only time will tell.

GRADE: C

Draft

Source: Sports Illustrated

Source: Sports Illustrated

They say that across any sport, most deals begin to take shape on draft night. With all the GM's focused on one particular aspect, many use that time to "hotline bling" opposing GM's and try to work something out. There's always deals that get done, as NBA players and current draft picks alike are often shipped across various teams, some more surprising than others (looking at you Timberwolves).

Insert the Toronto Raptors. There were reports circulating on Twitter at the beginning of the night that Masai was actively shopping Itty Bitty Baller Jonas Valanciunas along with the 23rd overall pick as a way to shed some salary off the cap. This became a very intriguing prospect to most, as getting rid of JV would be a nice way to create some room in the salary cap.

Midway through the draft the rumour was still being floated about Masai actively shopping this duo together. As the draft board inched closer and closer to the 23rd overall pick, this rumour began to die off as one intriguing name remained on the board; OG Anunoby. The tantalizing prospect out of Indiana was a projected lottery pick on every mock draft until he sustained a season ending knee injury on January 20th.

While many expected Anunoby to drop out of the lottery as a result of the injury, experts did not predict him to drop too much lower than that. As the numbers kept increasing, the "true OG" was still in his seat, and the Raptors began to realize that this might actually be a possibility. Once it was the Raptors turn to make a pick and OG was still available, it was impossible not to make that selection.

What many experts deem to be "the steal of the draft", the Raptors literally had this young phenom fall right into their laps. While Anunoby still has to work on his offensive game (averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), he is credited as the one of the best defenders in the draft, if not the best. He hasn't played a game since his season ending knee surgery in January. OG is working towards a return in November-December.

When people ask me for NBA comparables, I give them a floor and ceiling of the type of player I believe that Anunoby can become. His floor is a PJ Tucker, and his ceiling is a Kawhi Leonard. I'm not saying he's going to be the next Kawhi, but do expect him to be the best defender on the floor who can lock down the opposition's star player and give you consistent offence.

GRADE: A

Free Agency/Trades

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Once the calendar turned over to July, the Raptors roster really began to take shape. Once the signings of Ibaka and Lowry were made official, it was clear the road they would travel on.

Here's a list of who the Raptors have added/retained and who they have traded away/let walk in free agency.

Added:
Kyle Lowry
Serge Ibaka
Justin Hamilton (waived)
C.J. Miles

Subtracted:
PJ Tucker
Patrick Patterson
DeMarre Carroll
2018 First Round Pick (lottery protected)
2018 Second Round Pick
Cory Joseph

I have been on the fence all offseason about the direction the Raptors should take this team. I'm pretty sure I was more indecisive than my girlfriend trying to choose what to eat for dinner. However, once I saw the details of the Ibaka and Lowry signings, I was all abord the compete train.

It’s our job to try and get Kyle to come back and do it the best way that we possibly can. We want him back, he has been a huge part of the success here.
— Masai Ujiri

Masai handed out three-year contracts to both Ibaka and Lowry, which matches up with the expiry of DeRozan's contract. Masai is giving this core three years to compete. In an incredibly weak Eastern Conference that has seen superstars Jimmy Butler and Paul George head out to the incredibly stacked West, it only makes sense for the Raptors to at least remain competitive and allow their talented youth to develop and grow with the team. Bringing back these two players was essential, as they both boast impressive three-point numbers for their respective positions, aligning with the culture reset that Masai referred to.

Anybody with a brain would know that Masai and Co. would have constructed a methodical plan of action to carry out once they re-secured their own free agents. With the core signings completed, this pushed the Raptors into tax territory, giving them virtually no room to add any complimentary pieces unless a trade was completed.

So Masai went to work.

Step 1 of the master plan? Get rid of the one bad free agent contract on the books. The true JUNK yard dog DeMarre Carroll was shipped off to hell (aka Brooklyn) along with a future 2018 lottery protected 1st and 2nd round pick in exchange for a heaping pile of dog shit in Justin Hamilton. The trade was purely a cap relief scenario, and it cost the Raps a couple of draft picks. With the promising young talent this roster has already, I'm okay with the price of this necessary move.

Step 2 almost mirrored step 1. Nearly 12 hours after trading away DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors traded away backup point guard and fellow Canadian Cory Joseph to the Pacers in order to make room in the cap to sign C.J. Miles. "I get a ring and I bring it home like I'm Cory Joe." Drake embodied the feelings of Raptors fans everywhere when Cory Joe signed in Toronto as a free agent a few years ago, and we will forever be grateful to him. However, with young promising talent like Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet knocking at the door, it just made sense to move CoJo and his salary. This allowed the Raps to go out and sign DeMarre's replacement in C.J. Miles. Coming off a three-point field goal percentage of 42% last season, Miles is the perfect addition to a team in desperate need of that asset. He also provides solid defence and is one of the most underrated two-way forwards in the game.

The one aspect of Free Agency that sucks is that you can lose your players for nothing. Due to the Raptors tight cap crunch, they lost free agents PJ Tucker to the Houston Rockets and Patrick Patterson to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The one that really stings for me is the loss of Tucker. I was hoping that Masai would do whatever it took to keep the team's best defender and leader, but was ultimately swayed by the idea of playing alongside fellow friend Chris Paul and MVP nominee James Harden. His loss of presence will be felt on the court, and hopefully players like Miles and Norman Powell can help eliminate the pain.

Overall it was a fairly productive free agency period for Masai. I don't believe he's done yet, however I believe he would be content with starting the year with the current roster he has constructed. Kudos on keeping our star free agents and moving the players that needed to be moved. The grade would have had the letter A in it if not for the loss of PJ Tucker, which will hurt the Raptors more than most expect.

GRADE: B+

Remaining Offseason Predictions and Overall Grade

Source: Raptors Republic

Source: Raptors Republic

Like I said before, I don't believe that Masai is done just yet. There's a step 3 in his master plan, but it just hasn't been revealed to us. So what could that step 3 be, you might ask?

Great question.

Let's circle back to draft night. Remember when the Raps were trying hard to shop JV? Where there's smoke, there's fire, and that means that the Raps were looking to shed his salary. I believe that they still are, and if the right trade partner and offer comes along, I believe the Raps will take it. This could allow for a solid trade deadline acquisition without creeping into the tax, and allowing for more room next offseason to make one big splash.

Masai is a god. He will play some mind trick on a poor soul and force them to agree to whatever trade he wants. Let's all bow down to him.

The Raptors have done a good job (so far) this offseason. They have positioned themselves well to compete now, as well as not be locked in to any ridiculous contracts three years from now. They are only one injury away from actually having a chance to win the East, and that's all fans can ask for.

Overall Grade: B+

Where Do The Raptors Go From Here?

Source: Raptors Republic

Source: Raptors Republic

Never has there been an offseason as important or unclear as this one upcoming for the Raptors.

The Raptors find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can't seem to get past the massive hump that is LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, and the greatest that I have personally ever seen play the game. As long as that guy is breathing on the court, the East is his playground.

*Note: If you have not watched Masai Ujiri's End of Year Press Conference, you can watch it in its entirety here.*

It's clear that change is coming with this team. The words that came right from Masai's mouth were "We need a culture reset." When Masai says something, you can take it to the bank, because you know #InMasaiWeTrust.  There are a few things that stuck out to me after listening to Masai's press conference, which will be tied in to every topic discussed. Let's begin with the often energetic and enthusiastic coach, Dwane Casey.

We need a culture reset.
— Masai Ujiri

Dwane Casey

Dwane Casey has arguably been the best thing to ever happen to the Raptors. After coming off of a championship run with the Dallas Mavericks as their assistant coach, Casey faced the daunting task of turning a failing Raptors squad around into perennial contenders. After going below .500 in his first two years, he's gone above .500 in the last four, with 48, 49, 56 and 51 wins respectfully. When fans were calling for a rebuild during the 48 win season, Casey was able to get the most our of his players and have them play at a level that was unexpected and welcome in the Toronto basketball landscape.

Even though there's a long list of pros regarding Casey, there are accompanied by cons as well. His iso-ball style of gameplay is no longer effective, with Masai even making mention that this style of play will not work going forward. Couple that with his questionable starting lineup decisions, and he's created a #FireCasey section of the fanbase that arises every time a poor decision is made.

I'm not going to sit here and make excuses for Casey. I love him as a human being and I think he's a players coach and all around good guy. He says the right things and supports his guys no matter what. In the same breath, he makes me want to pull my hair out of my head when he starts DeMarre Carroll over Norman Powell, or when he never properly utilizes weapons such as Jonas Valanciunas or even James Johnson.

Personally, it wouldn't surprise me if the Raptors decided to fire Casey or keep him. There's valid arguments for both, but if I had to make a decision at this very moment, I think I would be more inclined to let Casey go and let another voice such as Rex Kalamian or Jerry Stackhouse take over the room.

It's hard to really read into where Masai's head is at regarding Dwane Casey. He didn't tip his hand much regarding the 60 year old coach, but it seems as though he will have an opportunity to get back in his chair and continue with this team next year. But make no mistake, his seat will be very, very hot.

I just want a ring.
— Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry

The hot debate topic surrounding the Raptors might not be around Coach Casey, but rather his all star starting point guard Kyle Lowry. Today, Lowry officially opted out of his final year in his contract, becoming a free agent. This comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody, unless you are my mom and thought the move meant that he was leaving Toronto for good (I know you're reading this mom, I'm sorry but I had to).

Lowry has been nothing short of a revelation for the Raptors, and this past season was by far his best of his career. Posting career highs in points per game (22.4), field goal percentage (46.4%), three point percentage (41.2%), and even defensive rebounds per game (5.0), Lowry has shown that he can be a complete player and a top tier point guard in the game.

One thing Lowry can't combat though is age. Lowry is on the wrong side of thirty (31), and signing him to a max contract would mean that you have him until the age of 36. While that may be a good contract for the first two to three years, the last two years may come back to haunt the team. The question now becomes this: is that a risk you are willing to take?

The Raptors have good young point guards in local boy Cory Joseph and 2015 1st round draft pick Delon Wright (who I absolutely love). There is no way to completely fill the void left by Kyle Lowry if he or the Raptors choose to part ways, but the Raptors did play well enough without Kyle, going 14-7 once he sustained his wrist injury. Not to mention that the Raptors played some of their best ball against Cleveland during the final two games, also known as the games that Lowry was out of the lineup.

If the Raptors choose to not sign Lowry, its because they have chosen to spend his max dollars elsewhere. If Lowry chooses not to come back, I wish him the best of luck. I believe that if an agreement if not reached between Lowry and the Raptors, fans should expect to see him with the Spurs. If Lowry is serious about a ring, his best chance other than Toronto would be the Spurs. Sorry 76ers, Lowry doesn't have time on his side to "trust the process".

It’s not realistic.
— Masai Ujiri on retaining all free agents

The Other Guys...

Lost in the shuffle and conversation surrounding Casey and Lowry is what to do with the other free agents the Raptors have coming off the books. Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker and Patrick Patterson all hit the open market as UFA's this summer. When the Raptors traded for Ibaka, they also retained his bird rights, which gives the cap situation a bit more flexibility.

Here's where fans and analysts alike can get creative with their offseason plans. Obviously all decisions will be affected based off of Lowry's decision, but I would like to see Ibaka and Tucker back, and Patterson gone. Masai obviously traded for them for a reason, and I believe that he wouldn't have made those trades if he has no intention of keeping them around after this year. Ujiri made it clear that it is impossible to retain all four pending free agents, and I see Patterson as the odd man out. He is a good serviceable stretch four off the bench that can hit shots from deep, but he has shown that he can't be relied on in the playoffs and has a fragile mentality and confidence issues.

There are a lot of players I would love to see the Raptors target. If the Raptor's don't retain Lowry, then they have more money to spend to fill holes on the team. Some players that I would like to see the Raptors target include:

  • Kyle Korver - Arguably one of the best shooters from deep to ever play the game, Korver is deadly from beyond the ark, and if he can come at a reasonable price tag it will fit the new play style of shooting threes.
  • Danilo Gallinari - He won't come cheap, but if the Raptors decide to go small ball and have Serge at center and move JV, then this would be target number one. He has the versatility to play small forward and power forward, and seems to have unlimited range on the court. Again, fitting into the new found three point offence.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic - See a trend here? Looking for small/power forwards that can hit the three well. Bojan fits that bill, and can be a guy to come off the bench and log some solid minutes for that second unit. He has shown an ability to lead a second unit during the Washington vs. Boston series.
  • Joe Ingles - Read above, and just replace Bojan Bogdanovic with Joe Ingles.
  • Vince Carter - Didn't think I would leave out my boy VC right? I've been advocating for his return to the six for a few seasons now. If anybody could get VC to sign a veteran's minimum to come off the bench for the Raptors next season, its Masai.
100 per cent
— Masai Ujiri on ability to spend into the tax threshold

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Raptors right now. Decisions are coming, and the only thing that is certain is that this team will not look the same one way or another. It's an exciting time to be a Raptors fan. Let's just sit back and watch Masai & Co. get to work