But now the Raptors are legitimate, laced with talented mid-lottery draft picks as a nucleus, complimented by a solid group of supporting players providing a competitive lineup in all stages of the game. The Raptors are winning and with that success eliminates meaningful improvement through the draft.
Admittedly, it's a problem you want to have. But for Raptors fans unfamiliar with improvement outside of the draft, it's largely uncharted waters.
It speaks to the latest round of trade rumours circulating one of the catalysts of the Raptors recent string of success, namely Kyle Lowry. The point guard is in the final year of his contract and with unrestricted free agency on the horizon, calls for Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to trade Lowry have begun filling message boards and sports-talk radio shows.
'His stock is high, maybe we can trade for a high draft pick'
'We can't loose him for nothing'
'He's only playing well because it's a contract year, like in Houston'
Concerns perpetuated by a fan base unfamiliar with building onto an already winning team. And in all of the naval gazing that so defines sports fans in Toronto, what's missed is that one of the biggest concerns is based largely on revisionist history.
There's an idea floating around that Lowry is 'playing up' in an effort to garner leverage for upcoming contract negotiations and that this scenario has happened before.
Although there is truth to the idea of impressing your bosses before a potential raise, what is being glossed over is that this is the first time Lowry has improved his numbers going into a contract year. In 2009-2010, Lowry was playing in the final year of his rookie contract, below are his season averages.
2009-10: 24.3 MPG | 39.7 FG% | 3.6 REB | 4.5 AST | 0.9 STL | 9.1 PTS |
On July 14th 2010, Lowry signed a 4 year/23.4 million dollar contract. The jump in Lowry's game actually came after his extension was signed... not before.
2010-11: 34.2 MPG | 42.6 FG% | 4.1 REB | 6.7 AST | 1.4 STL | 13.5 PTS |
2011-12: 32.1 MPG | 40.9 FG% | 4.5 REB | 6.6 AST | 1.6 STL | 14.3 PTS |
2012-13: 29.7 MPG | 40.1 FG% | 4.7 REB | 6.4 AST | 1.4 STL | 11.6 PTS |
2013-14: 36.1 MPG | 43.1 FG% | 4.3 REB | 7.5 AST | 1.6 STL | 16.5 PTS |
Lowry's stats under this current contract have been better than his career averages in nearly every category, nearly every year. A good sign if the Raptors want to resign as it stands to reason that Lowry is more likely to play at or above past performances. Even with the criticism of poor fitness in the 2012-2013 season, Lowry still scrapped together numbers that largely shadowed his career averages.
Now that we have some context, eliminate the idea that the Raptors will loose Lowry for nothing or that they have a chance of parlaying him into a high draft pick. Neither scenario will happen given Masai Ujiri's history and the perceived strength of this years draft class.
So what we're left with is the obvious. The Raptors will sign Lowry if the price is right. If Lowry doesn't want to continue in Toronto, they'll trade his rights in the offseason. It's really that simple. Let's just make sure we have our stories straight Toronto, because Lowry has shown little in the way of only playing for a contract and it's unfair to sully his name for the sake of having an excuse if he walks.
Lowry seems to have found a home in Toronto and maybe if we all just shut up and enjoy the success, everything will work itself out... one way or the other.