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May 16, 2024

Sixers stay or go: Will Kyle Lowry finish his career in Philadelphia?

Kyle Lowry gave the Sixers a lift after signing with the team on the buyout market, but was overtasked in the playoffs. Will he return to Philadelphia for his 19th NBA season?

NBA Sixers
Kyle Lowry 5.15.24 Petre Thomas/USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Lowry finally joined his hometown team in February of 2024 for the remainder of the season. Will he return for another campaign in Philadelphia?

It's going to be an offseason like no other. Save for Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and a few other depth players, the Sixers could totally overhaul their roster before the 2024-25 regular season.

With upwards of $60 million in cap space likely to be available, debates as to whether most of the roster should be brought back into the fold for next season and beyond — or not — will be debated for weeks. As the team contemplates major changes in personnel, we ponder the question, should Kyle Lowry stay or go?

Sixers 'Stay or Go' series

Tobias Harris | Kelly Oubre Jr.De’Anthony Melton
Nic Batum | Kyle Lowry | Buddy Hield | Cam Payne

Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey has long been known for his propensity to pull off blockbuster deals. But in the 2023-24 season, the most important trade for his organization did not actually involve him. 

In need of a scoring punch, the Miami Heat struck a deal with the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Terry Rozier. Miami sent Charlotte a first-round pick and veteran guard Kyle Lowry, and because the Hornets were well out of the playoff race, they ultimately agreed to a buyout with Lowry, then 37 years old. Morey swooped in and signed the Villanova product who was born in Philadelphia, and after many years of rumors, Lowry was finally part of his hometown team. 

Despite his age, the veteran guard gave the Sixers everything they hoped for and more. He reunited with his former head coach in Toronto, Nick Nurse, the person who led the Raptors to a championship with Lowry as his trusted point guard.

There was never an expectation that Lowry would be an All-Star-caliber player in Philadelphia the way he was for many years in Toronto. But with his remarkable basketball intelligence, hustle, passing, spot-up three-point shooting and versatile defense, Lowry quickly played his way into the team's starting lineup and was never removed from it. However, Lowry's productivity did tail off a bit during the team's last few playoff games.

With Lowry now 38 years old and the Sixers potentially reshuffling their roster heading into 2024-25, will there be room for the hometown guard on the team's roster?

It is well-documented at this point that Morey and co. are entering this summer with the hope of adding a third star-level talent to their All-Star duo of Embiid and Maxey. Who that player will be, and whether they attempt to add them via trade or free agency, remains to be seen. But even if the Sixers have to renounce the rights to many of their higher-priced free agents in order to generate as much salary cap flexibility as possible, they would not have much trouble being able to afford Lowry.

The Sixers will certainly not be the only team interested in Lowry's services this offseason — any championship contender should have interest in such a heady, experienced and reliable player — but it is worth noting that this is a 38 year-old guard who stands at just 6-foot and now lacks explosion. One of the reasons Lowry struggled in the Sixers' final handful of games is that he simply has such little juice as an on-ball creator these days — he struggles to create any sort of advantages off the dribble because of his aforementioned lack of burst. This does not mean he cannot be a helpful rotation player, but it does put a limit on how valuable he can be, particularly in a playoff setting.

The Sixers should want Lowry back. He can still be impactful through all of his maniacal exploits. But his days as a permanent starter should likely be over. While players like Embiid and Maxey should not be surrounded by ball-dominant supporting cast members, it does bog down an offense quite a bit when there are players on the floor — particularly perimeter-oriented players — who are not capable of consistently creating their own shot. While Lowry and Nic Batum were two of the Sixers' five most reliable players for much of the home stretch of the regular season and postseason, it was often hard to play them at the same time because of their similar inabilities to break down a defense as a self-creator. 

Lowry's exact intentions are not yet known, but most public indicators would suggest that he would have interest in returning to Philadelphia for a full season.

The veteran's minimum for a player with at least 10 years of NBA service in 2024-25 is projected to be worth just over $3.3 million, according to Sports Business Classroom. Lowry is still better than the average player who signs a minimum deal.

But for the sake of the hypothetical, let's say another team offered him their Taxpayer's Mid-Level Exception — a slot often allotted towards veterans of Lowry's level. That exception is projected to be worth just under $5.2 million.

At this juncture of his career — in which Lowry has already accumulated nearly $250 million in salaries throughout his lengthy career, according to basketball-reference — the veteran shot-caller is likely to prioritize situation, role and ability to contend for a championship over a hair under $2 million when he is deliberating between contract offers.

Lowry appeared thrilled to have the chance to play in his hometown, the strength of his relationship with Nurse is well-documented and he had nothing but good things to say about his time with the Sixers after their playoff elimination. For all sorts of reasons — on-court, off-court, financial and more — Lowry seems primed for a return to Philadelphia in 2024-25.

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