There you have it, folks; this summer Kyle Lowry will be taking his talents back to the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Just after 11pm the all-seeing, all-knowing Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted this:
Kyle Lowry has agreed to a 4 year, $48M contract to stay with Toronto, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
Lowry's signature can't be put on the dotted line until July 10th, but the deal is done in principle.
There are a multitude of things to say about this deal -- the most important being, of course, that it's great that the Raptors were able to re-sign their best player.
But first the dollar amount.
Considering everything that's been written (with sound rationale or otherwise) $12 million per year for Lowry seems like a bit of a steal. $48 million over four years isn't cheap in a vacuum, but for a player of Lowry's quality -- a player who, in my opinion, was the best point-guard in the Eastern Conference last season -- that's a very fair price. You just aren't getting a player who put up the numbers Lowry did last year for any cheaper than that.
The Raptors, of course, benefitted from the fact that two of Lowry's biggest suitors, outside Toronto, were both hurting for cap-space; a deal with the Rockets would've been complicated for a variety of reasons (not least because of old wounds) and new reports suggest that Chris Bosh isn't quite as willing to take a big pay-cut as earlier thought. That throws a major wrench into Miami's plans to open up cap space.
The Raptors have always held the leverage in terms of money and years -- they could've offered Lowry a fifth year if the negotiations got dicey. Lowry does have a player option for the fourth year, however, which was likely negotiated as a compromise for sacrificing a fifth.
There was always the fear that Masai Ujiri and the organization would be bidding against themselves, so to speak, and would reflexively overpay out of a fear of losing Lowry to a 'sexier' destination.
This was a big moment for Ujiri and Tim Leiweke.
The front office has made a conscious effort to shake off the image of the Raptors as being a feeder club that is unable to retain its stars once they're able to test the waters of free-agency. There was always a danger that the perceived need to be aggressive -- to change the image of the club -- could lead to the organization overpaying Lowry. But the team has struck a good balance here between sending out the message that it's willing and able to keep its stars (Lowry's still going to be making good money) but that it's not willing to compromise the future by doing so.
It's also worth nothing that the salary-cap is set to increase over the next few years and if Lowry does decline at the back-end of his contract, his salary won't seem like such a big hit on the cap overall.
Ultimately Lowry's relationship with his teammates, Dwane Casey and Ujiri, played a huge role in his re-signing. Until last season Lowry was a talented, but petulant journeymen, known more for feuding with his coaches than for his output on a basketball court. Lowry would've been an All-Star last season if it weren't for that well-earned reputation. A brutally honest meeting with Masai last season was the catalyst for Lowry turning his career around, and now he's the eighth highest paid point-guard in the NBA. He'll make more money in the next three years than he has in his entire NBA career up to this point.
The big worry going forward, is that Lowry's form last season was the result of him playing for a big contract, and that now that he has the security of a long-term, lucrative deal, he'll slowly regress to his old ways. That concern is understandable, however, last season was the first in which Lowry has enjoyed the complete running of a team without another talented point-guard breathing down his neck. Lowry had shown flashes of brilliance in the past, for Memphis and Houston, but never anything close to the level he maintained for an entire NBA season last year -- 17 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, numerous charges taken and a P.E.R. of 20.1.
There's also something to be said for a player just turning that proverbial corner -- Ujiri's talk with Lowry reportedly moved him to tears. There's a good chance that he just 'gets it' at this stage of his career. TSN's Josh Lewenberg compared Lowry's career arc to that of Chauncey Billups, another point-guard who took time to flourish. Lowry has a ways to go to have a career like Billups, but the precedent for such a mid-career redemption story is there.
Now that priority number one has been taken care of, Ujiri will shift his attention to the team's restricted free-agents. The Raptors don't have a whole lot of cap-space to work with, however, and it's possible that the team will have to let one of Greivis Vasquez or Patrick Patterson walk (preferably Vasquez). But more on that later. The Raptors have their man. Let's savor that for a while.