When the Toronto Raptors traded star forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 9, it seemed like a clear sign that the team was poised to tank. Even though it was near the top of the Eastern Conference, it was not very impressive considering the East’s lack of talent and competitive play compared to the brutal Western Conference. Toronto had a mediocre 7-12 record and had lost five of its last six games. However, since the trade, the Raptors have tremendously improved their play, becoming one of the most surprisingly dangerous teams in the NBA.
Since Dec. 9, the Raptors are 13-6 and have climbed to third place in the Eastern Conference. Along the way, they have earned several impressive victories, including wins against the Pacers, Thunder, Mavericks and resurgent Nets. The Raptors’ revival has been led by the outstanding play of both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan has been able to score at will. Additionally, he consistently grabs boards and finds his teammates for the open shot. Lowry, meanwhile, has been the team’s catalyst. He is averaging career highs in points (16.5), three-pointers (2.5), rebounds (4.2), assists (7.4) and steals (1.7), emerging as one of the most dynamic players in the league. Lowry has even heard chants of “MVP” from the Toronto faithful.
However, for the past several weeks there have been many trade rumors regarding Lowry. According to one such rumor, Lowry was close to being traded to the Knicks (who desperately need a consistent facilitator, but that is beside the point). Many fans are wondering why the Raptors would think about trading their best player when they are finally running on all cylinders. Although the Raptors’ success makes a trade involving Lowry less and less likely (and if I were a Raptors fan, I would want them to keep him), a Lowry trade still makes sense for the long-term success of the franchise.
The goal of every NBA franchise should be to win a championship. Even if the Raptors keep Lowry and continue their successful play, there is simply no way they will advance past the second round of the playoffs. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are the cream of the crop in the East, and it is almost guaranteed that they will meet in the Conference Finals. Lowry’s trade value is at an all-time high right now, and there are many teams that could use a dynamic point guard to run their offenses. It makes sense to get as much young talent as the Raptors can for Lowry, so they can have a legitimate chance to compete for a championship in the future. This may be a tough pill for Raptors fans to swallow, and I would not blame them for being angry if a trade did occur. As fans, we only care about the present, but the job of a team’s general manager is to keep the team’s best interest in mind, even when that best interest lies somewhere down the road.
It seems that the trade buzz for Lowry has died down somewhat. Yes, the Raptors can take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference to make a small run in the playoffs. However, does this improve the team’s chances to win a championship some day? Probably not. It may be tough for Raptors fans to accept, but there is a possibility they may be better off in the long run if they trade Kyle Lowry for top young talent.