For the first time in what seems like eons, the Los Angeles Lakers will enter free agency with boat loads of cap space to spare—to say nothing of their No. 7 draft pick.
It’s full-on rebuild time in Tinseltown, but that doesn’t mean Kobe Bryant couldn’t use a reinforcement or two—even if they wouldn't necessarily be long-term solutions.
In his annual end-of-season power rankings, NBA.com's David Aldridge had this to say about the No. 10-slotted Raptors: “Raps have a decent shot at keeping Kyle Lowry, but there will be suitors -- and the Lakers are at the top of the list.”
As things stand today, L.A. has just five players under contract: Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Nick Young—Inside Socal's Mark Medina suggests he's expected to decline his player option—and Kendall Marshall, whom the Lakers will likely bring back.
Lowry would most certainly be the presumptive starting point guard over Nash, who missed much of last season with chronic back pain and is likely on his last NBA legs.
The question is whether Lowry is willing to bypass what could be an equally lucrative payout—and an unquestionably better short-term scenario—with the Raptors.
Toronto currently has $41.3 million in committed salaries, meaning it could conceivably offer Lowry something slightly above what the Denver Nuggets gave Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million) back in 2012.
The reason? At 28 years old, Lowry has yet to collect the kind of big-time payday of some of his PG peers have.
The question is whether Toronto—which has the option to match whatever offer Greivis Vasquez fetches in restricted free agency—believes that to be the best use of its spare bullion.
But as Bleacher Report’s D.J. Foster wrote back in March, the Lakers have their own reason for not wanting to give away the farm on Lowry’s behalf:
That would seem to make Lowry a perfectly logical signing, but the Lakers are stuck between competing in Bryant's window and finding stars for the future. Lowry is a great player, but he probably doesn't move the needle enough to justify the contract he'll likely demand.
Unless the lack of buyers on the market drives his price down somewhere closer to the $7 million-a-year range, which seems unlikely given his play this year, the Lakers are probably better off finding a more movable asset at an even bigger position of need in free agency.
For his part, Lowry has been relatively mum on his impending free-agency foray, save for this little tidbit shared with Doug Smith of the Toronto Star on May 5:
"I love this place, it's as simple as that" says Raptors Kyle Lowry, free-agent-to-be— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) May 5, 2014
However, Lowry did elaborate a bit in an earlier interview with the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons.
“Honestly, I want to be in the best situation,” he said. “[Toronto] is a great situation in general. This city, the place, the organization is unbelievable. I can’t say too much about it because I love the place.”
If you're the Lakers, what is the most you'd offer Lowry?
What Lowry’s situation gives us is the ultimate in cost-benefit analysis for an athlete. Does he take less money to return to Toronto, with a young core in place and last season’s playoff appearance as a beaming bellwether?
Or will the lure and luster of the Lakers—coupled with the possibility of a bigger payday—make him put short-term winning on the back burner?
This NBA offseason is already being painted as the summer of Kevin Love (and Carmelo Anthony), but that doesn’t mean Lowry’s decision doesn’t stand to be a compelling domino in its own right.
Team contracts and salaries courtesy of HoopsHype.