Why is Kyle Lowry still a member of the Toronto Raptors? Maybe a better question is why isn't he playing for a playoff team right now?
It might not seem like it based on the way Lowry has played this season, but at 35 years old Lowry's NBA career is certainly nearing an end. He's put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume with six All-Star appearances, a third-team All-NBA appearance in 2016, a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, and, of course, an NBA Championship. There's nothing more Lowry needs to do to prove he deserves a spot in Springfield, but who doesn't want to spend their last few seasons making an impact on a playoff team? Lowry deserves that, either in Toronto or somewhere else.
Instead, he's spending his time languishing away on the Raptors' bench unable to play because the organization is more interested in developing its younger players than making the playoffs. That's not necessarily the wrong decision. It makes sense considering the team is 27-40, but it's tough to see considering how talented Lowry still is.
By all accounts, the Raptors were planning to trade their league guard at the trade deadline and came incredibly close to getting a deal done. They had multiple suitors for Lowry but nothing quite felt right to Raptors president Masai Ujiri who said he was surprised no team was willing to pay Toronto's asking price.
"I've viewed him as somebody that can go out and put a stamp on what you can do this year. Teams that I saw, I know that if he goes to those places, I've lived it, I've seen it and especially these teams," Ujiri said after the deadline. "I know what the guy does. I know who he is."
The Raptors certainly deserve some blame for the way this situation has unfolded. They refused to sell Lowry for anything less than what they felt was fair market value and now they're stuck with Lowry, a player they clearly would prefer to have on the bench these days. If he walks this summer and Toronto gets nothing in return, what will have been the point of keeping him? To mentor the youth as a quasi-assistant coach?
Right now it appears as though Toronto made the wrong decision at the deadline, but in the next few months there's little doubt that a few other organizations will be kicking themselves for not pulling the trigger for Lowry. If Miami, Philadelphia, or the L.A. Lakers come short of claiming the NBA's ultimate prize this summer the Lowry question will certainly come up again. Could Lowry have pushed them over the edge? We won't know that now, but eventually we will.
Regardless, it's a shame that this is how things have played out. As Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Thursday night, Lowry has earned the right to play in high-stakes games. Toronto could have used him on Thursday night against the Wizards. They choose not to use him. Someone else could have. Unfortunately, they too choose to stand pat at the deadline and let the chance to acquire a real difference-maker pass them by.