Kyle Lowry is the best free agent point guard available this summer and will have many suitors when free agency officially begins at 6 p.m. Monday night. He's no longer capable of being the best player on a contending team, but other championship hopefuls would be hard-pressed to find a better second or third option.
Lowry didn't put up huge numbers on a bad Toronto team last season (17.2 points, 7.3 assists, 5.4 rebounds per game), but he can do several crucial things at a high level. He can shoot from deep, hitting 39.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last year on 7.2 tries per game. He can still defend at a high level. He can run an offense efficiently and effectively. And finally, the guy just makes winning plays. They were few and far between for the Raptors last year because wins in general were few and far between for them, but Lowry still has it.
The All-Star point guard will be an unrestricted free agent tonight, but agreeing to a sign-and-trade will guarantee the highest possible salary for Lowry and an ideal landing spot since most contending teams can't sign him outright due to cap constraints. Whether he goes down that avenue or just inks a deal with whoever throws the most money at him, Lowry will be joining a new organization soon. Here are four possible destinations.
Even if the Heat technically cannot engage with Toronto in possible Lowry trade talks until tonight, they're already linked to the point guard as the favored destination because all these anti-tampering rules are fake anyway. The latest reports suggest Miami will trade Goran Dragic and his expiring deal along with 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiwua for Lowry, who will sign a three-year deal worth around $25-30 million a year to make the trade happen. The Heat need to acquire Lowry via a sign-and-trade because the max contracts of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo mean they're up against the cap and can't give Lowry a competitive offer in the open market.
Now that we have the financials out of the way, it's easy to see why Pat Riley would want to make this deal. Lowry is the best player the Heat can get anytime soon who fits around Butler and Adebayo. He'd bring the Heat to another level defensively while still spacing the floor. Giving Lowry that big of a deal means a lot of money will be sunk into a core that isn't guaranteed to be a championship contender. But Riley has never been one for sitting on his heels, and Lowry is the only aggressive move that makes sense.
Another team rumored to be interested in Lowry, the Mavs' No. 1 priority this offseason appears to be finding a good defensive point guard who can spell Luka Doncic when he sits. Lowry would certainly fit that bill, and Dallas could put together a competitive salary offer after trading Josh Richardson's contract to the Celtics. It seems Dallas (and probably many other teams) saw the kind of change Chris Paul caused in Phoenix and hope to make a similar leap.
Lowry could certainly do that for Luka and the Mavs. All this team needs is bare minimum competence when their superstar sits to become a very good team, and Lowry can offer more than that. He's the kind of second star that Kristaps Porzingis is not: reliable, capable, and knows how to make winning plays. If a Miami move doesn't pan out, this is a great spot for Lowry to land and all sides would be pretty happy.
New Orleans Pelicans
Lowry was the rumored target for New Orleans after they dumped a bunch of salary by trading Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to Memphis. It's a great idea in theory. Lowry seems like the exact type of personality that can nudge Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson to greatness without pushing them too hard -- as it seems Stan Van Gundy did last season. He's also, as stated above, a very good player and a valuable floor-spacing general who could both set Zion/Ingram up and give them room to get to work. That's not an easy combination to find, especially given the spacing issues of this particular team.
But if Lowry wants to contend for a championship starting right now, the Pelicans will be out of consideration entirely. If he wants money, though, New Orleans has the space and motivation to offer up a deal very few other teams will on the open market. Lowry could leverage them for an absurd contract and play on a very talented team, but not one particularly close to title contention. It all comes down to what Lowry wants, and if that's a payday, the Pelicans ought to feel great about their chances.
Los Angeles Clippers
Let the Los Angeles arms race commence! This would be a hard trade to pull off, but the Clippers have $29 million in tradable salary to work with between Patrick Beverly and Marcus Morris. That should be enough to salary-match a new Lowry contract in a sign-and-trade. It's not exactly an optimal return for the Raptors, or at least it's not on the same level as what Miami is reportedly offering up, but it's better than letting Lowry walk for nothing.
Lowry would be the perfect addition for the Clippers. They'll be without Kawhi Leonard for most of next season and he very well could miss all of it. Paul George is very hit-or-miss as the No. 1 option at this point in his career. Lowry is a steadying presence who can step up when George is struggling and has no problem stepping back when George is cooking. His defense at the point of attack would be invaluable after L.A. was ousted by the Chris Paul/Devin Booker combo in this year's playoffs. And then the Clippers will have a proper Big 3 when Kawhi is ready to return. If the Raptors are interested, the Clippers should do whatever they can to pull this off.