Kyle Lowry's name has been omnipresent over the last week and change as Thursday's NBA trade deadline quickly approaches. The Toronto Raptors are not very good this year, currently sitting at 17-26, and don't have a clear path towards immediate title contention ahead of them. Thus, they've explored trades for their 35-year-old point guard who seems to want another chance at a ring and a new contract before he hangs up the sneakers.
The two obvious teams in contention for Lowry up to this point were the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. Both are championship hopefuls this year, and both have a hole at the point guard position. Both also have people in the front office notoriously unafraid to take home run swings when the opportunity presents itself. But with only one day to go before the deadline, there hasn't been a lot of traction on either front. The Heat are loathe to part with any of the young players who shined en route to a Finals run in Orlando last year, while the Sixers are in the same division and don't have a ton of draft capital or attractive young players to make a deal worthwhile for the Raptors.
Knowing all that, it seemed more likely than not coming into Wednesday afternoon that Lowry would stay put. Until Adrian Wojnarowski dropped this tidbit on ESPN saying that the Los Angeles Lakers should not be counted out of the Lowry sweepstakes.
Not quite a Woj bomb, but we'll settle for a Woj explosion at this year's quiet deadline. At first, though, it doesn't make sense. The Lakers don't have any draft assets to offer after the Anthony Davis trade and have exactly one intriguing young player by the name of Talen Horton-Tucker. The 2019 second-round pick is not anywhere near good enough to be the centerpiece of a Lowry trade. What could the Lakers offer that would make Toronto pull the trigger instead of standing pat?
Well, if the Raptors are looking to retool rather than rebuild, the Lakers actually could get a deal done. In order to match salary and allow any deal to go through, Los Angeles would have to give up Dennis Schroder and his $16 million salary. Schroder is who he is at this point in his NBA career: a good scoring point guard who can put the ball in the basket and initiate the offense but won't offer much defensively. As a replacement for Lowry, he'd be a good fit next to Fred VanVleet, even if that backcourt would be undersized. Toronto would also probably want Montrezl Harrell given their consistent struggles at center this season, an asset made more attractive because he has a two-year deal.
Putting together Harrell's salary with Schroder and Wesley Matthews makes the numbers work. It's probably not the return Toronto would hope for in exchange for their franchise centerpiece, but it is also probably the best deal the team will get if it wants to remain competitive this season. On the Lakers' side of things, it would be a hit on their depth, especially in the frontcourt. Marc Gasol is still an okay player but you don't want him playing more than 15 minutes a game at this point, especially in the playoffs. Matthews is a valuable wing defender who will be useful in the postseason going up against the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Lowry is a different but better player than Schroder, to be sure, but also far more expensive with a $30 million salary.
I think the Lakers make that deal. LeBron James and Davis are hurt. Schroder and Harrell are excellent complements to that pairing but aren't going to be able to push the team to a winning record in the absence of star power. Lowry won't drag an undermanned Lakers team to a winning streak without LeBron or AD, but his presence could certainly result in enough wins to keep the Lakers from plummeting down the standings over the next month. In playoff time, Lowry is perfect for Los Angeles. He can play off the ball, defend at a very high level, and create offense when LeBron or AD are on the bench.
Without the injuries, Los Angeles wouldn't even be asking after Lowry. But things change quickly. The front office recognizes the team needs a boost while Davis gets back to full strength and LeBron rehabs his sprained ankle. Lowry could do just that if a deal can be made.