Title: What a Toronto Raptors Rebuild Could Look Like
Date: May 12, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about what a tear-down (“Tank!”) might look like for the Raptors.
Of the difficult questions the Toronto Raptors must answer this offseason, the biggest one, the one that stands to shape the direction of their franchise for years to come, is not entirely theirs. Kyle Lowry will become an unrestricted free agent in the coming days, and it’s his choice whether to leave or stay—assuming the team wants him—that hangs over everything, the first domino in a complicated chain of decisions the Raptors have to make this offseason.
Should Lowry want to stay, the Raptors then have to decide whether they, too, want to continue the relationship and keep trying to compete with this core. There is a reasonable argument to be made that the Raptors should take a major step back regardless to maximize their chances at winning a championship down the line. There are no right or wrong answers or opinions in the tear-it-down-for-a-title vs. stay-good-and-entertaining debate, so if Lowry stays, you can argue either way.
If Lowry opts to leave, though, there’s little sense in running things back. Retaining Serge Ibaka is financially plausible but would stand to more or less cap the team out with a much lower ceiling and little recourse of replacing Lowry, either by position or by talent. The Raptors face a tough call with Lowry and the core in general because they risk getting stuck in the middle, and that’s an even greater certainty with a DeMar DeRozan-Ibaka core. That group probably tops out around 45 wins and one playoff series win, and the financial flexibility gained by letting Lowry walk isn’t enough to see this group growing to substantially more. Lowry is the team’s ceiling, and the tank-or-compete decision is made substantially easier if he leaves.
It’s by no means a certainty the Raptors will go this route, and you are justified in hating the idea or loving it—this is a visceral, philosophical question with an answer that will vary by perspective—but if the Raptors were to tear things down, here’s what it may look like.