Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Kyle Lowry During 2014 Offseason
Good as Kyle Lowry's regular season was, his emergence in the playoffs was even more noteworthy. The 28-year-old averaged 21.1 points per contest in the Toronto Raptors first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
That included a 36-point explosion in a Game 5 victory, along with a valiant 28-point effort in the decisive Game 7 loss.
On the heels of the franchise's breakout success, one might think Toronto would do virtually whatever it takes to keep Lowry around. But free agency is an unpredictable business and whispers have already linked Lowry to the likes of the Miami Heat.
The conversation between Lowry and the Raptors may well come down to money, but all things being equal, he's been an outstanding fit with the club. His exit would almost certainly throw Toronto into a temporary state of disarray, attempting to find an immediate replacement for one of the league's most underrated floor generals.
After stints in Memphis and Houston, Toronto is the third club to make use of Lowry's services. The 17.9 points he averaged this season were a career high by far, 3.4 more points per contest than he averaged in 2011-12 with the Rockets.
Lowry is a multifaceted talent who'd bring plenty of skill to his next destination. He can shoot threes or put his head down and drive to the basket. He's also a fine distributor and defender, boasting the kind of all-around game that could solicit a pretty big raise this summer (after earning just $6.2 million for the 2013-14 season).
That raise ultimately depends on the market, but it could easily fall into the $10-12 million per year range.
The question is who's willing (and able) to pay up. A few options stand above the rest.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
Beyond Steve Nash's frailty, the Los Angeles Lakers also have the future to think about.
Though multiple reports have indicated that the organization will delay most of its big spending until the summer of 2015, landing a point guard like Lowry could help facilitate recruitment when the time comes to go after bigger names. It would demonstrate that the Lakers have something of a core already in place, at least as far as the backcourt is concerned.
In short, it would be a start.
Lowry is a strong two-way player, and that would be ideal for a team looking to establish a defensive identity.
The immediate question is how Lowry and Nash would coexist in the short-term—assuming the latter remains healthy. Someone would have to come off the bench as a sixth man, but that's not the end of the world for a team that had to start Kendall Marshall at the point for most of the 2013-14 season.
A little extra depth is precisely the kind of problem the Lakers need at this point.
Moreover, it's hard to see Nash complaining about a potential bench role. It's hard to see him complaining period—particularly at this stage of his career. He should understand better than anyone that his penchant for injury has become a liability the Lakers can no longer tolerate.
4. Sacramento Kings
Point guard Isaiah Thomas is a free agent this summer, and he should be in store for a pretty massive raise after averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists this season. Thomas made just $884,293 in 2013-14.
The 25-year-old could become too pricey for the Sacramento Kings' taste, however. He's undersized at 5'9" and something of a defensive liability to boot.
Assuming small forward Rudy Gay returns, Sacramento would have to clear some cap room in order to sign Lowry. But if the price is comparable to Thomas', trading away a couple of contracts might be worth the effort.
Lowry averaged 17.9 points per contest this season, and he was slightly less efficient from the field. However, his all-around production was superior to Thomas. More importantly, his experience running the point could help Sacramento take that critical next step.
There's also the possibility that making a run at Lowry could help keep Gay around.
Per The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat, "They were friends long before they both arrived as first-round picks in Memphis in 2006 and have not lost their bond despite being separated for many years now on their NBA journeys."
A reunion could do wonders for one another's morale and translate into strong performances on the court—even if that synergy never quite materialized when the two were together in Toronto.
3. Orlando Magic
Even if the Orlando Magic pick up their $8 million team option on point guard Jameer Nelson, the club will still have plenty of money to sign the likes of Lowry. It would also still have a legitimate need for an upgrade at the point.
Nelson averaged just 12.1 points and seven assists last season, netting a relatively unimpressive player efficiency rating of 13.89. The 32-year-old may be better-suited for sixth-man duty at this stage of his career, even with a rebuilding club like Orlando.
A backcourt of Lowry and Victor Oladipo would rank as one of the league's more dangerous duos, especially if the latter continues to develop.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan isn't one to make splashy moves, but it's not hard to imagine him handing Lowry a fairly lucrative long-term deal. Even if this organization isn't of the mind to wheel and deal its way to the top, it certainly does not have any interest in remaining near the bottom of the standings.
Lowry wouldn't immediately make this team a contender, but he could do for the Magic exactly what he's done for the Raptors—putting the team in the playoff discussion after a lengthy enough rebuild.
It might be hard to imagine Lowry ditching a playoff team for Orlando, but the Magic may be closer to making some noise than we think. The youngsters got plenty of opportunity to develop this season, and the Magic have the No. 4 and No. 12 overall selections in this summer's draft.
Between those picks and a number of young assets, Orlando could be well on its way to bigger and better things. Someone like Lowry might just be one of them.
The only other thing that could get in the way is Dante Exum, the Australian prospect a number of mock drafts have going to Orlando at No. 4. Exum can play the point alongside Oladipo and reasons to get big minutes from day one.
2. Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers disappeared in the 2014 NBA Finals. The longtime starting point guard for the Miami Heat averaged just 4.4 points and had a shooting percentage of only 33.3 during the series, eventually forfeiting his starting job to Ray Allen in Game 5.
Miami needs a more consistent floor general, and Lowry would help.
CBSSports' Matt Moore notes:
Lowry would provide them with a point guard who could bring the ball up the floor and manage the offense. He's great in transition, shot 38 percent from the outside this season and is a bulldog defender. He's also tough as nails, something the Heat could use on the perimeter. Adding Lowry would also mean that Dwyane Wade could rest more, a paramount concern after Wade struggled in the Finals despite sitting out 20 games during the year.
Apparently, the two sides both like the idea of Lowry taking his talents to South Beach. Also according to Moore, ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst said in an interview that, "The guy who has mutual interest with the Heat and who fits a position of need is Kyle Lowry."
It remains unclear just how much mutual interest there is, but the bigger problem is that Miami would have to restructure the Big Three's deals in order to create the requisite cap space to acquire Lowry. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all terminate their contracts early, they could potentially sign deals at a lower per-season rate.
That would, in theory, make it possible to sign someone of Lowry's ilk.
Suffice it to say, there would have to be consensus around the proposed deal, and a number of chips would need to fall into place.
Still, it's possible.
1. Toronto Raptors
There's something to be said for continuity.
Lowry has experienced breakout success with the Toronto Raptors, and that should probably count for something. The franchise won't find a better point guard on the open market, and it should go without saying that Greivis Vasquez probably isn't ready to take over full-time duties at the point.
It should come as no surprise that Lowry sounds like he wants to stick around. After Toronto bowed out of the postseason, he told reporters, "This is only the start for us and the Raptors organization."
That's a telling word. It's the kind of word Lowry probably wouldn't have used if he was seriously intrigued with the possibility of going elsewhere.
On the other hand, the price has to be right.
Back in February, NBA.com's David Aldridge reported:
The Raptors do not want to give Lowry a big-money contract this summer along the lines of what other point guards who've signed extensions recently: Denver's Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million), Golden State's Stephen Curry (four years, $44 million) or New Orleans' Jrue Holiday (four years, $41 million from Philadelphia).
Toronto might not have much of a choice, though. If the franchise lets Lowry walk and the team takes a step back, fans may not be of the mind to forgive. The Raptors finally have some success upon which to build, so this probably isn't the best time for extreme fiscal restraint.