Toronto Raptors star point guard Kyle Lowry confirmed to reporters Monday morning that he plans to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
The move was expected after Lowry, 31, had a career year in 2016-17, averaging 22.4 points, 7.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. He was set to make $12 million next season, per Spotrac.com, but now may be in line to receive a max contract either from the Raptors or on the free-agent market.
Lowry can sign a five-year, roughly $205 million deal with the Raptors, while other teams can only offer Lowry four years and around $152 million. It remains to be seen if the max contract will be Lowry's priority, however.
"A ring. Nothing else. I just want a ring," Lowry said Monday, per Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic.
Lowry has no shortage of options, though if he returns to the Raptors the team would soar beyond the luxury-tax threshold if it also re-signed Serge Ibaka.
As ESPN.com's Zach Lowe reported: "What they won't do: Bring back this same group. Doing so would vault them at least $30 million over the luxury tax, for a total bill of something like $250 million. You don't pay that for a noncontender."
But Ibaka is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2016-17 season and wasn't as impactful as Lowry last year. And without Lowry, the Raptors go from being a contender to a potential lottery team. If given the choice between Lowry and Ibaka, Lowry appears to be the more logical choice, even if he is four years older.
If a ring is all he desires, the San Antonio Spurs could be a potential landing spot, though Sam Vecenie of Sporting News noted money could be an issue there as well:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
San Antonio I think is the dream spot for Lowry, but they need to find a way to A. offload Gasol and B. Carve out ~5-10M more in space after5/8/2017, 4:36:03 PM
Money wouldn't be an issue for the Philadelphia 76ers, Lowry's hometown team, whom Lowe reported would pursue him in free agency. But would Lowry want to join a team with a young core that won't be ready to compete for a title for a few years? On the flip side, is adding a veteran like Lowry the right move for the Sixers at this early stage in the development of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric?
Accordingly, Lowry's free agency will be one of the most talked-about storylines of the NBA offseason.
"The summer is huge," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri acknowledged, per Lowe. "But every summer is huge. We are trying to keep up with the big boys."
It will be hard to do so without Lowry.