The 2021 NBA free-agent class doesn’t have many No. 1 options for teams to pursue, but some players can provide a variety of skills on both ends of the court.
One such player is guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry signed a one-year, $30 million deal with the Toronto Raptors last season, but his future with the franchise is in doubt.
Lowry has been with the Raptors since the 2012-13 season and helped the team win a championship in 2019. However, following a disappointing season mired in injuries and health and safety protocols, Lowry could seek to start a new chapter.
According to Eric Koreen, Raptors beat writer for The Athletic, Lowry is weighing various options regarding his future:
“To be honest with you, my family will be a major factor in this,” Lowry said. “And also, money talks, and years talk, and all that stuff. Let’s be real. I play this game for the love of the game, but at the end of the day, I want to make sure my family is still taken care of for generations and the time to come. Even though they are now, I wanna continue to be able to do that for my family, and when I pass away, my family (is taken care of).
The 35-year-old guard is one of the most talented unrestricted free agents in this year’s class, and the Los Angeles Lakers could be in the mix for his services, according to Koreen:
“Expect all three teams that kicked the tires on Lowry at the trade deadline to explore his availability once more. The Heat have the clearest path to acquiring him, while the Lakers’ contracts that they could move in a sign-and-trade are not overly desirable, although there is likely a deal to work out if both Lowry and the Lakers are deeply interested.”
During the trade deadline in March, the Lakers were one team seeking a trade to bring Lowry to L.A. But trade talks between the two sides fell through as the Lakers did not want to part ways with young guard Talen Horton-Tucker, who Toronto insisted be included.
Now that Lowry isn’t a member of any team, he could choose to sign with the Lakers when the market opens on Aug. 2. But as Lowry said, money will play a big factor in his decision.
He’s 35 now, meaning this could be the last big payday of his career.
However, the Lakers’ financial situation puts the franchise in a rough spot to outright sign Lowry to a deal. L.A. is above the cap and can’t renounce any cap holds to create space. Since Lowry is expected to be one of the well-paid free agents, Los Angeles would likely need to pursue a sign-and-trade.
The downside to that, though, is the Lakers don’t have many palatable players to send to Toronto.
Dennis Schroder could be included in a potential deal, but he would need to agree to a sign-and-trade himself as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Montrezl Harrell has a player option that would give him a $9.7 million salary next season. Toronto’s frontcourt disappointed considerably this year, and Harrell could help boost the scoring aspect.
The other two players making enough money to possibly include are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma.
Caldwell-Pope could give the Raptors another great defender in the backcourt alongside Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., depending on where he lands as a restricted free agent.
Kuzma’s three-year, $39 million contract extension begins this upcoming season, and the Raptors could bring him off the bench behind OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.
These players aren’t the best compared to what the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers can offer, but as Koreen wrote, a deal between Lowry and L.A. could occur if the interest is there.
Los Angeles could also use its 2021 first-round draft pick as a sweetener. L.A. used last year’s first-round selection in a trade to bring Schroder over from the Oklahoma City Thunder. L.A. is in win-now mode with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and it’s not a guarantee the 22nd overall pick would be an immediate contributor.
But there’s also the concern how L.A. will fill out the remaining roster spots with most of the money committed to three players, assuming Lowry is a Laker.
Los Angeles has a trade exception worth $600,000 for a potential signing and a non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth around $9.5 million at its disposal.
Lowry becoming a Laker isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible, either. L.A. would just have to make some tough choices if it pulls the trigger on the six-time All-Star.