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May 05, 2017

Let’s talk about the Sixers and Kyle Lowry

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As a regular listener of the Lowe Post podcast, I couldn’t help but notice that the latest episode featured a free-agency rumor that was floated earlier this year. The plugged-in Brian Windhorst again brought up the possibility of the Sixers signing Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry this summer:

“Kyle Lowry, he’s 31 years old now. Do the Raptors want to enter a negotiation where they have to negotiate paying him at age 37 but the Philadelphia 76ers don’t?”

I wrote “again” because Windhorst and Lowe kicked around the same scenario back in December:

Lowe: I think these questions are borderline impossible. If and when [the Raptors] sign Kyle Lowry to a five-year max, the cap-heads will say, ‘Well, this is a bad deal, this is a risky deal. Downside risk on the back end, they should have negotiated harder, the market for point guards isn’t robust, who was going to sign him, blah blah blah…’

Windhorst: I’ll tell you who is going to sign him: Philly.

Lowe: Look, it ain’t that hard to connect the dots. He’s from there, Bryan Colangelo’s there, they need a point guard.

Windhorst: They have more money than they know what to do with.

Lowe: I think they will absolutely make a run at him.

While two podcast excerpts are far from a WojBomb, they aren’t exactly a Twitter account with 2,000 followers floating absurd trade rumors either. Lowe explained the surface reasons why Lowry would be a free-agent match with the Sixers well:

He’s from Philly!

Bryan Colangelo traded for him in Toronto!

The Sixers have *all* of the cap space!

But Lowe also mentioned the downside, and just follow the money. Here is Lowry’s potential max contract in Toronto as a player with 10+ years of experience (he can start at 35 percent of the cap), Bird Rights (eight percent raises, and most importantly, a fifth year). Credit to SportsNet’s Craig Battle for crunching these numbers first:

Total$202,909,000
 2017–18$35,350,000
 2018–19
$38,178,000
 2019–20
$40,652,500
2020–21
$43,127,000
2021–22
$45,601,500


Not quite for the faint of heart. Here is Lowry’s max in Philly, where he can “only” get four years and five percent raises:

 Total$152,005,000
2017–18
$35,350,000
2018–19
$37,117,500
2019–20
$38,885,000
2020–21
$40,652,500


Lowry has a financial incentive to stay up north, but will the Raptors want to max him out?

It first needs to be said that Kyle Lowry is freaking awesome, a tough SOB who somehow keeps getting better. The Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova product has been one of the best 10-12 players in the NBA over the past few years, leading Toronto to three playoff series wins over the last two seasons. Before this year, they had one in franchise history (thank you, Vince!).

The Raptors have a good team that has no chance of getting past LeBron in the playoffs. With a core that is about to become super expensive, there is intrigue around the NBA about what Masai Ujiri decides to do this summer, especially if the Raps get bounced in four or five games. At 31 years old, Lowry is a logical odd-man out.

So, should the Sixers look at him in free agency if Toronto gets cold feet? Probably not. Here are some considerations:

•    They’re likely going to draft a guard: If the Sixers draft a guard (Fultz, Ball, Fox, Monk, Smith, Ntilikina), spending on Lowry doesn’t make sense because they would play a similar role. And as the “Ben Simmons, point guard” experience gets underway, you would have to look at the potential bang for your buck even if Lowry is adept at playing off the ball. Oh yeah, the Jerryd Bayless signing wouldn’t look so hot.

“If we’re going to maintain flexibility going forward, that’s not a bad thing either,” Colangelo said. “Especially, I think part of that will be determined on whether or not we have one or two draft picks in the top-10 this year.”

•    The Sixers have a much younger timeline than Lowry: They aren’t ready to win big yet, and when you sign a 31-year-old point guard for four years, his best seasons will almost assuredly be his first two. There is the possibility that Lowry falls off a cliff by the last two seasons when the Sixers would really need him.

It’s an under-25 team, basically is where we are,” Colangelo said. "The future is out there and do we want to jump to the future quicker or do we want to have it happen organically and grow it the right way?”

The right way, huh?

•    What are the long-term salary cap ramifications? This is the most important consideration. In the best-case scenario, the Sixers have two offseasons before Joel Embiid is due for an extension and the youngsters start to become pretty expensive. Even if the cap jumps to $120 million by 2020, a 35-year-old Lowry would be taking up one-third of your space. What does his signing prevent you from doing in the following years?

For those reasons, I would lean toward passing on Lowry, even if he would be an excellent addition to the Sixers next year. And if you think it was ridiculous for me to spend 900 words on this topic, well, so do I. But there's nothing else going on!


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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