Title: Dramatic shift in NBA free-agent market has wide-ranging impact on Raptors
Date: July 4, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I examined the market forces that led the Raptors to a strong competitive position but a tough fiscal one.
Around this time last year, a five-year, $139-million contract from DeMar DeRozan immediately shifted a question from one star’s salary to the other’s. If DeRozan, unquestionably one of the franchise’s most important players to date and the first star to ever choose to stay for a third contract, was commanding something close to 91 per cent of a maximum deal in a rising cap environment, just how much would the Raptors have to pay Kyle Lowry, DeRozan’s friend and co-star, in 2017 when the cap rose even further? It was a complicated question, but one the large commitment to DeRozan more or less dictated an answer for: Barring a catastrophe, the Raptors would probably look to retain Lowry, but it might require that fifth year, or a larger annual salary, only they could offer.
At one point, the question was not whether the Raptors should sign Lowry, but instead about whether the Raptors should be willing to pay him $205-million. With Sunday’s news that Lowry had agreed to a three-year deal worth between $90- and $100-million, the goalposts obviously shifted dramatically. Lowry signed for something like half of what it was once thought he might command.
Lowry has not become a fundamentally worse player. He has gotten older, but not at a pace any quicker than expected. He was hurt again in the playoffs and there were rumblings about his discontent and the effect it may have had on the team. But Lowry remains a top-20 player in the league in terms of his impact on the team, a player beloved beyond his reputation by more or less every available catch-all metric, and the potential key to the Raptors changing their stripes on offence despite little roster overhaul. He’s very good, and him winding up with roughly half of his maximum total salary (albeit still about 89 per cent of his annual max) would have been very surprising a few months, or even weeks, ago.