NBA Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Speculation on Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball and Powell

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

NBA Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Speculation on Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball and Powell

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    This is peak audition time for upcoming NBA free agents.

    For all of the different happenings over the final few weeks of the 2020-21 season, there probably isn't enough attention paid to the massive amounts of money that could be won or lost during this stretch run. Between the pressures of playoff positioning and the chance for players to have expanded opportunities due to rest or injury, now is the time for these soon-to-be hoopers-for-hire to make a great last impression.

    The market won't officially open for a few months, but it's already buzzing with rumblings.

    We'll break down the latest free-agency chatter here.

Sixers Still Eyeing Kyle Lowry

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    If the Philadelphia 76ers fall short in their championship quest, their 14th-ranked offense will be the likely culprit. Even with MVP candidate Joel Embiid anchoring the interior, their unscratched itch for a perimeter shot-creator puts a cap on this attack's potential.

    Philly native Kyle Lowry would be a fascinating option to fill that void, and the Sixers' lack of cap space apparently won't hold them back from an ambitious pursuit.

    "Sources say the Sixers still plan on pursuing him by way of a possible sign-and-trade," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported.

    With the Toronto Raptors falling out of contention and perhaps signaling a focus on the future with the deadline that deal that shipped out 27-year-old Norman Powell for 22-year-old Gary Trent Jr., Lowry's days up north could be numbered. But the question is whether Philly's sign-and-trade offer will trump what he might find elsewhere.

    The Miami Heat might be able to sign him outright, and their star swingman Jimmy Butler is close friends with Lowry. This bidding war could get interesting real quick.

Potentially Robust Market for Lonzo Ball

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    You know that sweet sound of a swish? In Lonzo Ball's head, it probably sounds more like a cash register's ring, as his shooting improvement has a chance to skyrocket his future earnings.

    The long ball has been the biggest swing skill for 2017's No. 2 pick. It was his primary question mark coming out of college (thanks in no small part to his highly unorthodox form), and he quelled exactly none of those concerns while shooting 31.5 percent from three and 43.7 percent at the line across his first two seasons.

    But he cleaned up his mechanics and has been shredding nets with far more regularity since his July 2019 trade to the New Orleans Pelicans. He broke out as a legitimate three-point threat last season and upped the ante this year, burying 3.0 threes a night at a 37.4 percent clip (and, highly encouragingly, also converting 78.0 percent of his free throws).

    Suitors are taking notice. The Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks "showed interest in the past and will likely do so again," Amick reported.

    If the Pels want to bring Ball back in restricted free agency, it might take massive money to get it done.

Keeping Norman Powell Could Get Pricey for Portland

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Free agency is coming at the perfect time for Norman Powell, and that could be bad news for the Portland Trail Blazers.

    Often prone to hot and cold spells across his first four seasons, Powell began unlocking his consistency last season. As an encore, he has boosted his numbers almost across the board, including career-highs of 18.7 points, 2.5 three-pointers and a 40.9 perimeter conversion rate.

    The Blazers bought into the breakout and parted with the promising Gary Trent Jr. to land Powell at the deadline knowing he'll almost surely need a new deal this summer. He technically has an $11.6 million player option for 2021-22, per Basketball Insiders, but even the world's worst financial adviser wouldn't tell him to pick that up.

    Portland might already be married to the idea of retaining him, but the franchise will likely have to brace itself for sticker shock. Powell should be "highly coveted" and might near a salary "in the $20 million a year range," according to The Athletic's John Hollinger.

    The Blazers, who wouldn't have the funds to sign a suitable Powell replacement if he walked, should be ready to break out the check book and write down an astronomic sum.