Well that was quick.
Less than 24 hours after the Toronto Raptors officially lost out on Steve Nash, Bryan Colangelo reportedly struck a deal with the Houston Rockets for point guard Kyle Lowry, owner of perhaps the best non-rookie contract in the entire NBA, and he got him without trading a way a single member of the team's young core. While Lowry isn't the household name that Nash is, he would have a tremendously positive impact on this club and he could be a huge acquisition for Colangelo in the wake of losing out on Captain Canada.
Lowry is a bulldog of a player. Despite being only six-feet tall, he is one of the best defenders at his position in the entire NBA. Dwane Casey has huge affection for Lowry, and in Lowry the Raptors head coach could now have a player that exhibits all of the defensive and toughness qualities that he wants to define his team and the way they play. The Raptors need an on-court leader, and they may have gotten one in Lowry.
That isn't to say that Lowry is just a one-trick pony. Last year, he averaged 14.3 ppg and shot 37% from behind the arc on 4.5 attempts per game (he also shot 86% from the line, and got there 4.2 times a night). He dished out 6.6 assists and grabbed a stellar 4.6 rebounds per game last year, too. That rebounding average puts him only 0.2 boards per game behind Rajon Rondo, the leader in rebounds for NBA point guards.
He's also a player on the upswing. His PER has improved in each of the last three seasons (topping out at 18.9 last season), and he's finally begun to master some of the nuances of the game rather than playing out of control like he did when he was younger. Where he was once unable to control the pace of his game, he now knows how to use his speed to attack and when to use the threat of his speed to throw a defender off balance. While he wouldn't bring Steve Nash's dynamic passing or veteran leadership, he'd bring a ton of what this Raptors team needs to take the next step forward, and he'd do it at just $11.9 million over the next two seasons. $11.9-million! That's a steal in today's NBA when a guy like Landry Fields hits a salary cap up for $6.3-million per year (in fact, Lowry's salary helps offset the overpay that Fields represents on Toronto's books).
While this would certainly be a victory for the Raptors organization, this would be a particular victory for Colangelo. He was taking a lot of heat on Wednesday for failing in his Steve Nash bid, but managing to snag Kyle Lowry for a future protected first round pick and Gary Forbes would take a lot of the sting out of that misfire. Lowry would be a steal, and while he's no Nash, at 26 years old, he fits the direction the team is going better in some ways, and he'd likely convert a lot of old Alvin Williams fans, given the similarities in the games and personalities.
In Lowry, Colangelo could pick up a piece that he can be proud to introduce to the fan base; a player that suits the progress of the Raptors franchise to a 'T', who would be able to grow with the youngsters while leading them and a guy that demonstrates that Colangelo understands his coach and what he needs to make his style effective. He may get that player without sacrificing something bigger in return or obliterating his salary cap in the process, and while it won't make people forget about Nash, it would certainly help them move past him.
Colangelo laid the foundation for this move prior to the NBA draft and may have been able to pull the trigger on it on Thursday. Lowry could be the opening night starter for the Raptors in three months, and if so, the organization has to decide what to do with the two incumbents at the position: Jose Calderon and restricted free agent Jerryd Bayless. This may be just one step in this summer's tweaking; there is no doubt more to come between now and training camp in October.