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Grading the Toronto Raptors sign-and-trade of Kyle Lowry

Photo credit: @NBACentral/Twitter

Although the Kyle Lowry era for the Toronto Raptors has been over since August 2nd, it is now officially over after the team announced it — and the return — themselves on Friday. As expected, the Raptors will be receiving guard Goran Dragic and big man Precious Achiuwa in return for Lowry. No draft picks changed hands in the transaction (more on that later).

There’s no real need to focus on the Lowry-to-Miami aspect of this trade, so let’s focus on what the Raptors got in return for the Greatest Raptor of All-Time.

Dragic, a 13-year veteran, was drafted in the second round in 2008 with the Raptors being his fourth different team. The 35-year-old has averaged 13.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.0 steals in his career with a 55.9 true shooting percentage. He’s averaged double-digit points in 10 consecutive seasons, dating back to 2011-12.

Achiuwa is a second year player who was taken 20th overall by the Heat in the 2020 draft. He played in 61 games last year, starting four, and averaged 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.1 minutes. The 21-year-old spent one season with the University of Memphis Tigers, posting 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in 31 games.

Both players figure to slide right in to regular rotation spots for the Raptors this season, with Dragic most likely starting — if he’s still on the roster come the start of the season.

Financial impact of the sign-and-trade

By all accounts, the Raptors did not receive a trade exception from this deal, so we can look at it from a salary perspective.

Achiuwa is easy. He has three years remaining on his rookie contract for 2.7 million, 2.8 million, and 4.4 million dollars. After that, he’ll be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025, where the Raptors will be able to match any offer sheet he may receive.

Dragic, however, is a bit more interesting. After the Heat picked up his team option for this coming season, Dragic has one year remaining on his contract at 19.4 million dollars; making him the third-highest paid player on the Raptors.

I don’t want to discredit the current Toronto Raptors core, but it doesn’t appear as though they’re going to be championship contenders this season (or else Lowry would most likely still be on the team), so what does that mean for a 35-year-old, 19-million-dollar point guard?

There have been rumours he could be re-routed to the Dallas Mavericks, but apparently they don’t want to pay him 19 million dollars this season. The Raptors also know that they can (and should) get something for Dragic, so they won’t buy him out.

It will be a game of chicken for the time being, but I wouldn’t expect Dragic to play the full season with Toronto. It wouldn’t shock me if he makes it to the season opener, but he won’t make it past the trade deadline.

How do Dragic and Achiuwa fit with the Toronto Raptors?

I won’t spend too much time on Dragic since he isn’t a long-term fit with this team. If he’s on the team to begin the season, you could see Dragic starting alongside Fred VanVleet.

Per CleaningtheGlass, Dragic hasn’t seen time at shooting guard since 2015, so he’s more than likely going to start at point guard for the Raptors. This also optimizes VanVleet, who the Raptors are better with at shooting guard. The last two seasons, VanVleet has played over half of his minutes at the two, and the Raptors are significantly better than when he’s at the point. Last year the Raptors were plus-6.7 per 100 possessions with VanVleet at shooting guard and a mediocre minus-0.3 with him at the point.

Achiuwa, on the other hand, is a more interesting long term fit. Turning 22 in September, he fits right in with the younger group of Raptors: OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, and Malachi Flynn. He also fits in with the size profile of the team at six-foot-eight, but being a bigger body.

He played almost all of his minutes at centre this past season for Miami, but they got absolutely pummeled in those minutes with a net rating of minus-7.4.

Most of that has to do with being a rookie and then also part of it being the Heat dealing with tons of injuries and COVID-related issues, forcing Achiuwa into a bigger role.

Despite that, Achiuwa showed promise as a roll man, with a pretty efficient 1.14 points per possession on pretty heavy volume in that role. He should find pretty quick chemistry with VanVleet in that role and Siakam with his improved ball handling and playmaking.

He shot around 60 percent at the rim, which is in the 20th percentile for his position. That’s an area where he’ll need to improve, especially with the volume of shots he takes (83 percent of his shots were at the rim).

Right now, he figures to get some rotational minutes mixed in with Khem Birch and Chris Boucher. I wouldn’t expect him to play heavy minutes right away, but could certainly play into a bigger role as the season goes on.

Overall grade for the Lowry sign-and-trade

By and large, this is a solid deal for the Raptors.

You can have your opinions on if they could have got more at the trade deadline, but that’s neither here nor there. We don’t know what the actual offers at the deadline were, so there’s no use complaining now.

Dragic should next more return if/when they do decide to move him to another team and Achiuwa should be a solid rotational big man with the potential to become a quality starter.

My biggest hang up is not being able to get any draft picks out of the trade. I know the Heat don’t have a ton of draft pick flexibility, but they do own their first round picks in 2024 and beyond. If they made the first rounder they owe to the LA Clippers in 2023 unprotected, it opens their picks up.

That’s the one thing I would have liked to see from this trade, just to pick up an extra first round pick, even if it has some protections.

Raptors Insider Final Grade: B

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