In the East, where the effects of that sweep are felt being hardest, Raptors All Star Point Guard Kyle Lowry opined the inevitable decision to opt out from the last year of his contract to become a free agent. With all the money flowing around in the league, it was time the 31 year old star man got in on the action after taking home a meager $12 million annual salary for three straight seasons. Had he not opted out of the deal, he would have been paid the same amount for the 2017-2018 season.
After getting bundled out of the playoffs for the second straight season by the Lebron James-led Cavs, Lowry is in search of two things; loads of money and a title. Though his brass confident posture spurred him to state “I can win anywhere”, the more serene and realistic part of his 6 foot tall body gave in to the fact there is a huge stumbling block to that aspiration in the Eastern Conference-LeBron James.
Lowry failed to impose himself in the series loss suffering multiple injuries and a horrible dip in form which leaves major question marks if General Manager Masai Ujiri wants to shell out over $200 million dollars for a guy seemingly a year away from his descent from the elite group of players in the league.
Aside Toronto, no team can offer Lowry a maximum contract; the best a suitor can offer is a four year deal in the region of $135 million.
You should be aware of the popular saying Defense wins championships but like so many changes happening in the world, this belief is getting tossed out the window super quick. A quick check through the average score in the league is exponentially up from what it was some few seasons ago. The three point-centric shooting mantra in the league has opened up the offensive side of the game so much the other, less amorous side of the court falls way back in priority. And the playoffs are bolstering that stance. Like Raptors, the Utah Jazz got swept in the semis falling to Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have made it to the finals with two sets of sweeps just like the Cavaliers. Despite Utah entering the postseason with the best defensive rating (97.45 according to oddsshark.com), it joins Portland Trailblazers as the teams that got wiped out by the Warriors with a 13.7 point difference.
The Warriors as they have done for two straights seasons, entered the playoffs as the best offensive team in the league topping the field with a 115.83 rating. For Cleveland, the defending champs began the late season with the fourth best offense and the 20th ranked defense. However, Cleveland manhandled a Toronto side ranked the eighth best defensive team. The difference? Ambassador Drake’s team 12th best offense simply couldn’t match Cavs offensive power in the series which ended pretty much after Lowry got sidelined with injury. Ujiri has some serious choices to make whether to keep the roster intact or try something new. The safest option would be to sign Lowry and maintain the team’s core with DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. Conversely, that would mean bringing back virtually the same side that has failed to get past the Cavs. Letting Lowry walk, signing Serge Ibaka to a maximum contract while flipping the two year and $30 million remaining on DeMarre Carroll’s contract would be enough to get another star name say Carmelo Anthony.
No thanks to its frigid location, Toronto rarely pops up on the transfer radar particularly regarding star names. But finishing in the top half of the conference in four straight years and having DeRozan on board, it is high time the Raptors got in on the act. With and without Lowry, the Raptors clearly got over run by Cleveland’s offensive machine and needs help to halt that slide. Replacing Lowry with Anthony is a sure upgrade in discussions contingent on putting the ball in the basket but his addition comes with some risks since Anthony does almost nothing aside score. Carmelo’s career scoring exploits checks in at 24.8 points per game while Lowry has a 14.3 point average; basically Toronto needs a player of Anthony’s ilk in the playoffs because of his experience and scoring abilities. The other matters relating to his defense can be solved by PJ Tucker and Ibaka same way Kyrie Irving’s defensive woes are shielded by JR Smith.
For comparison sake, Houston Rockets is locked in a heated series with San Antonio Spurs in the semis despite Houston posting the 26th best defensive output in the league. Its’s elite offense (second in the league) is the reason behind the team’s fight for the Western Conference Finals. Raptors can do same or even better with a Carmelo on board.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter