Lowry, the team’s central engine and three-time All-Star, agreed to a three-year deal worth $100 million. It’s a significant annual amount, but since Lowry’s been the key to this great Toronto run, it always made sense to bring him back, regardless of the dollars.
Likewise, Ibaka, the team’s talented combo forward-centre, is back for three years at $65 million. Given Serge’s versatile skill set — on defense in particular — it also made sense to get him back in Toronto. Both deals represent some shrewd and solid negotiation from president Masai Ujiri, having brought back two pillars of the Raptors on reasonable terms. After three years, the Raps can choose a new direction rather easily, as both Lowry and Ibaka age out of their primes.
More importantly: it suggests the days of top flight free agents fleeing Toronto the first chance they get are a thing of the past.
Here’s the press conference video for Ibaka and Lowry:
Another underrated aspect of all of this is that we may now finally get to see a team built around the specific talents of Lowry and Ibaka, who barely played together last season. Immediately after the Serge trade, Lowry underwent surgery on his wrist and played a mere four regular season games with his newest teammate before the Raptors’ push into the playoffs. Obviously, these are two high-level players so they can make it work on the fly, but one wonders what happens now as they gain more experience playing with each other.
Ibaka’s future with the team is another interesting thing to monitor. Last season, it became increasingly obvious that playing him at centre made the most sense — at least in crunch time and almost every big moment. But with Jonas Valanciunas still on the roster, and the Raptors’ extreme lack of power forwards after Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker’s departure, Serge’s role may not be defined just yet. Ujiri has not made any solid declarative statements yet — but it’s clear he’s still waiting to see how the trade market develops (particularly since the Raptors are now a luxury tax team).
The benefits to re-signing Lowry are, of course, obvious. (And if you don’t believe that, kindly see yourself out.) The Raptors have set themselves up with a nice three year window that dovetails nicely with both the eventual swoon in Lowry’s career, and the hopeful upward arc of the Raps’ plethora of young players. By 2020, the Raptors will be able to say they squeezed every ounce of talent out of the roster they “lucked” into all the way back in 2013. And if we get to look back at a long seven year stretch of playoff performances by the Raptors — even without a title to show for it — it will have been worth it.