Why keeping Lowry was a monstrously good move by Toronto.
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
After the departure of 2019 Finals MVP from The North, many people speculated that the defending champions would be willing to let go of Kyle Lowry too. After all, when it was him and DeMar DeRozan in Air Canada Center (now Scotiabank Arena), the Raptors would fall to LeBron for three years in a row (2016, 17, 18). But after The King took his talents to the City of Sunshine in the West, the Raptors wouldn't have to worry about reaching the finals again. As a surprise move, Toronto's president, Masai Ujiri, decided that he wasn't eager to pounce on this opening and traded away DeMar DeRozan, a fan favorite, to the Spurs for The Klaw. Everyone in the city was desolate, especially Kyle Lowry, as him and DeRozan shared a bond that wasn't seen in the league for a long time.
Fans of the franchise were eager for Kawhi's arrival and gave him a very warm welcome to The 6ix. This was, in part, due to the fact that his contract expired after this season, and they wanted him to stay. The fanbase initially despised the trade, until Kawhi proved that he was the key to the finals' lock. Known for not expressing his emotions, Kawhi actually smiled during a practice and it went viral. He is also known for his infamous laugh on Media Day in 2018, which had mixed reactions from the entire league.
Back to the main topic, it was almost definite that Toronto was going to rebuild around Pascal Siakim and Fred VanVleet, who both came through in the finals. With Lowry's contract expiring this year, he was expected to be a free agent. But Toronto wanted to keep him and he's lived up to the numbers. With $31 million on the table, Kyle Lowry has proved to be more than valuable to the team, especially after Game 6 against the Celtics.
Lowry led the charge with 33 points to force a Game 7 for the Conference Finals. The winner will play against the Heat to compete for a spot in the Finals. In a thriller double-overtime win, the Raptors beat the Celtics, 125-122. Lowry secured the game with a sublime stepback over Kemba Walker.
He was praised by players all around the league, including Joel Embiid, whom the Raptors sent home in the Conference Finals last year. Magic Johnson also commended Lowry and called him "Little General" after his Game 6 performance.
As for Lowry, his eyes are set on winning Game 7 against the Celtics, beating the Heat in the Conference Finals, and finally winning the O'Brien trophy over any of the four remaining teams in the west. If he and the Raptors can win back-to-back championships, they'll go down as one of the most slept-on champions in history. Everyone thought that Kawhi was their key, but after all, it might've been Lowry's ability to dictate the flow of a game single-handedly. Hopefully, he'll also be able to negotiate another extension and possibly end his NBA journey with the Raptors, retiring his jersey along the way.