The Raptors have agreed to re-sign starting point guard Kyle Lowry to a four-year contract worth $48 million, according to Yahoo Sports and USA Today Sports. The contract reportedly includes an early termination option after the third season.
"Toronto will be my home city," Lowry wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of himself wearing the Raptors' popular "purple dinosaur" retro jerseys.
Lowry, 28, enjoyed a career year in 2013-14, leading the Raptors to their first postseason appearance since 2008. After years spent fighting for minutes and a starting role in Memphis and Houston, Lowry was traded to Toronto in 2012. A strong, determined floor general, Lowry flourished in his contract year, averaging a career-best 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He thrived in the larger role created for him once Rudy Gay was traded to the Kings in December.
Although Lowry was snubbed for All-Star and All-NBA recognition, he entered the summer near the top of the list of available point guards. SI.com ranked him No. 8 overall on the list of top 25 free agents.
Toronto was highly motivated to retain Lowry, a major driver of its surprising run to the playoffs. General manager Masai Ujiri has a track record of paying up to retain his top players -- he re-signed Nene, JaVale McGee, Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson while in Denver -- and he didn't stray from that reputation here, making Lowry the Raptors' highest-paid player. Lowry's previous contract was worth $23.5 million over four years, so this deal amounts to doubling his pay.
Grade: B+. Lowry performed like one of the league's best point guards last season, ranking No. 5 in Player Efficiency Rating for his position, and he was bound to be rewarded handsomely for that play. The terms are meaningfully short of the max-level money given to perennial All-Stars such as Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, but Lowry slides right into the second tier of compensation for point guards. His deal is identical to Lawson's, and the contract puts him on a per-year par with Stephen Curry (four years, $44 million), Tony Parker (four years, $50 million) and Rajon Rondo (five years, $55 million).
There is legitimate concern that Lowry is being paid based on the best season of his career rather than on a more representative version of his accomplishments. Indeed, if this contract had been negotiated last summer, it would have been worth significantly less. Consider: Brandon Jennings had similar, or slightly better, numbers than Lowry in 2012-13, and he received a three-year, $24 million contract last summer. Lowry blew up, though, and the rest is history.
The Raptors were lacking an obvious alternative if they couldn't agree with Lowry, and this deal will run through his prime years. What's more, Lowry has been given the keys to Toronto's offense, and his aggressive style of play defined the Raptors' blue-collar reputation last season. The hope from Toronto's perspective is that Lowry has finally found the right fit, basketball-wise and organization-wise, and that he will continue to produce at this same level. With Ujiri steering the ship, coach Dwane Casey recently signed to an extension, All-Star wing DeMarDeRozan locked in for multiple years and a number of young players still on rookie contracts, the Raptors have many reasons to feel justified in taking this approach.
The inclusion of the early termination option was likely a compromise for not extending the contract to a five-year term. From Toronto's standpoint, the possibility of renegotiating in three years is preferable to committing to a guaranteed fifth year at this price.