As reported by multiple sources, the Raptors have traded reserve swingman Gary Forbes and a protected future first round pick (protection to be determined) to the Rockets for point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry played in 47 games last season, averaging 32.1 minutes, 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 37.4 percent beyond the arc.
As a fall-back plan after Bryan Colangelo was unable to sign Steve Nash, Kyle Lowry will do quite nicely, thank you very much. He’s 26 years old, has a reasonable contract (two years, $12 million, second year is a team option), and he has a very good all-around game for his position. Continuing with the Raptors’ trend of acquiring strong defensive players, Lowry is one of the better defensive point guards in the league — which is probably one of the reasons Raptors coach Dwane Casey is reportedly a big fan of his.
Lowry is definitely a very different type of player than Nash, particularly in how they get their points. Nash is more of a jumpshooter and can drain shots accurately from anywhere, while Lowry is more of a penetrator and gets more of his points at the rim. He’s pretty good from long-range, but his mid-range shooting is unquestionably the weakest part of his game — he made just 34 percent of his shots from 10 to 23 feet last season. Luckily, he doesn’t take a lot of those shots — just 20 percent of his field goal attempts came from that range. Wherever he shoots, he’s dangerous coming off screens with his quickness and ability to get off shots quickly.
While Lowry isn’t known as a pass-first point guard, he’s definitely not a ball hog. If he had played enough minutes to qualify last season (he missed 19 games with a variety of unrelated injuries), Lowry’s 6.6 assists per game would have tied him with Mike Conley for 10th in the league. As a passer, he’s more of a pick-and-roll playmaker than a drive-and-kick type — only 75 of his 310 assists in 2011-12 came on three-pointers. He’s definitely more of a risk-taking playmaker than Calderon, which naturally means more turnovers but also more assists for teammates driving to the rim.
Defensively, there’s a lot to like about Lowry. He’s small, but quick and tenacious and he gets a lot of steals with his quick hands. This is arguably the biggest upgrade at the position for the Raptors. Whether Calderon is traded, amnestied or merely relegated to a backup role, Raptors fans will witness much less “matador defense” at the point. As a bonus, he’s a surprisingly good rebounder for a player listed as being a bit under six feet tall in his bare feet.
Overall, this is a significant upgrade at point guard for the Raptors. Lowry is arguably already a top 10 NBA point guard, he’s just 26 years old, and his contract is more than reasonable. What’s not to like about this deal? Well, there is the matter of the draft pick going the other way, which apparently has a weird kind of protection where the Rockets get the pick if it’s in the lottery, but only below a certain numbered pick. It could be top three, top five… I’ll let you know when we find out.
While I initially wasn’t crazy about trading a future pick, we all knew Colangelo was in “win now” mode going into this season and Lowry is young enough that he could be a major building block for this franchise going forward. Could Colangelo have acquired Lowry without giving up a pick? No, I don’t believe he could have — Rockets GM Daryl Morey is no dummy.
As it stands, Kyle Lowry is now the best player on the Raptors’ roster, and it’s hard to project if a team with Lowry as its best player can be a playoff team in the East. A lot of that has to do with the ongoing development of the team’s youngsters, with the health of Andrea Bargnani, with the type of season they get from Landry Fields, and with the arrival of a certain Lithuanian big man you might have heard about. What I will say is that, with this move, Colangelo has redeemed himself after this off-season’s Nash debacle.
Update: Houston Chronicle reporter Jerome Solomon tweeted, “Rockets won’t get top-3 pick next year, top-2 pick next two years or No. 1 pick the next two. Otherwise lottery pick goes to Houston.” So it appears the Raptors keep the pick if they make the playoffs five years in a row. Hey, it could happen!