Toronto Raptors: 4 priorities for the team this offseason

Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi Innovation Series)
Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi Innovation Series) /
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Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors in action against the New York Knicks during a game at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Find out what Kyle Lowry’s number is, and then move forward – either way

Just as the Raptors’ off-court leader is up for a new contract, so is the team’s on-court leader.

After being linked to seemingly every contending team at the trade deadline, Ujiri couldn’t find a trade partner for Kyle Lowry, and the 15-year veteran played sparingly over the Raptors’ last quarter of the season.

At 35 years old and with a play style predicated on taking bumps and bruises, this figures to be Lowry’s final big contract.

Thus far, the Villanova product is defying age. While his streak of going to six straight All-Star Games ended this season, Lowry still averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 assists per game. Lowry also shot the ball well in ’20-21, as both his field goal percentage and three point percentage were improvements on last season.

Ask any Raptors fan, and they’d tell you they want to have Lowry back in black and red next season. However, in terms of team development, how much can Ujiri afford to sink into a player on the back end of his career?

Sentimentality says reward Lowry with a healthy contract and have him retire a Raptor, but Ujiri has a ruthless side. It might not seem like a big deal now, but when Ujiri dealt DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in exchange for a non-committal Kawhi Leonard, Ujiri was not a popular man in Toronto.

While the move was somewhat devoid of empathy, it obviously panned out. Could Ujiri make another cold-blooded move and not work to match Lowry’s demands?

Even though it hurts, having a set sum that you’re willing to pay Lowry and sticking to it seems like the right play. While he is a franchise legend, the Raptors can’t afford to pay for memories. Lowry’s experience and attitude would be welcome on a team that will likely have a lottery pick inserted into the lineup next season, but the Raptors need to watch their wallets as well.