The Six­ers should go hard af­ter Kyle Lowry

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - KEITH POM­PEY

The big­gest ques­tion sur­round­ing the 76ers this week has to do with Kyle Lowry.

Should the Six­ers sign the three-time NBA All-Star point guard to a lu­cra­tive free-agent deal in July? Or should they by­pass the 31year-old and re­main com­mit­ted to Ben Sim­mons? Or should they go af­ter another point guard to build around? The an­swer is sim­ple: Go hard af­ter Lowry. He’ll pro­vide in­stant cred­i­bil­ity and will re­cruit other A-list free agents to the Six­ers. Let’s face it, the Six­ers need a player of his stature to bring rel­e­vance.

I know the Six­ers have three of the league’s best young stars in Joel Em­biid, Dario Saric and Sim­mons. But Em­biid (left knee) and Sim­mons (right foot) are both com­ing off sea­son-end­ing in­juries. And the Six­ers are ask­ing Sim­mons, a power for­ward at Louisiana State, to oc­cupy a po­si­tion he’s never played be­fore. We won’t even get into the fact that the first over­all pick in 2016 has yet to play any po­si­tion in an NBA game.

Now, Sim­mons does have the po­ten­tial to be the sec­ond com­ing of Magic John­son. He and Em­biid are both ex­pected to be healthy next sea­son. But as the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves have shown, you need more than your su­per­stars to win in the NBA.

A Tim­ber­wolves squad that fea­tured rook­ies of the year An­drew Wig­gins (2015) and Karl-An­thony Towns (2016) won only 31 games this sea­son, only three more than the Six­ers.

The real ques­tion is will Lowry, a for­mer Car­di­nal Dougherty and Vil­lanova stand­out, chose to come home? A year ago, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Sources have said the North Philly na­tive has been in­ter­ested in play­ing for the Six­ers for some time. The spec­u­la­tion only height­ened once Bryan Colan­gelo be­came the pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tion in April 2016. As the Rap­tors’ for­mer gen­eral man­ager, Colan­gelo ac­quired Lowry in a trade from the Hous­ton Rock­ets on July 11, 2012. The two have re­mained good friends since then.

And sources have al­ways said that the Six­ers planned to of­fer Lowry a lu­cra­tive con­tract this sum­mer.

For the last three sea­sons, Lowry and three-time All-Star shoot­ing guard DeMar DeRozan have been one of the league’s top guard tandems. The Rap­tors re-signed DeRozan to a five-year, $139 mil­lion con­tract last sum­mer. They can of­fer Lowry a five-year, $200 mil­lion-plus deal. He can only get a max­i­mum of four years and about $152 mil­lion by sign­ing with another team, in­clud­ing the Six­ers.

Fi­nan­cially, Lowry would be bet­ter off re­sign­ing with the Rap­tors. Toronto gen­eral man­ager Ma­sai Ujiri said last month he would at­tempt to re-sign the point guard.

“No ques­tion,” Ujiri told the Toronto Sun. “Be­fore the in­jury (a bro­ken right wrist that cost him 21 games), you could ar­gue he was one of the top five players in the league this sea­son.” And he’s right. The 11th-year vet­eran had the best sea­son of his career. His scor­ing and re­bound­ing av­er­ages (22.4 and 4.8) were career highs. He also shot a career-best 41.2 per cent on 3-point­ers while av­er­ag­ing 7.0 as­sists per game, the sec­ond-best av­er­age of his career.

Crit­ics will point out that the Rap­tors were once again un­der­whelm­ing in the post-sea­son. They were the East­ern Con­fer­ence’s third seed af­ter post­ing a 51-31 record. Toronto beat the Mil­wau­kee Bucks, four games to two, in the open­ing round be­fore be­ing swept by the Cleve­land Cava­liers in the con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals. Lowry missed the fi­nal two games with a sprained left an­kle.

He’ll have to de­cide if he wants to con­tinue to play along­side DeRozan. In ad­di­tion to be­ing beloved in Canada, Lowry is rec­og­nized as one of the best players to ever don a Rap­tors uni­form.

He would con­tinue to be the pri­mary ball han­dler by re­main­ing in Toronto. And Ujiri would con­tinue to build the ros­ter around him and DeRozan. That’s why it makes sense for him to re­main in Toronto.

But no one can fault the Six­ers for at­tempt­ing to pry him away.

Even though he turned 31 in March, Lowry has not shown signs of slow­ing down. He could play at an All-Star level for another three sea­sons. He could do for the Six­ers what James Har­den did for the Hous­ton Rock­ets.

The Rock­ets weren’t con­sid­ered a prime des­ti­na­tion for free agents un­til they ac­quired Har­den from the Ok­la­homa City Thunder in a trade in Oc­to­ber 2012. Nowa­days, key free agents could be ea­ger to help Har­den and the Rock­ets de­throne the Golden State War­riors and San An­to­nio Spurs as West­ern Con­fer­ence pow­ers.

Some crit­ics, how­ever, are still con­cerned about what his ac­qui­si­tion would mean to Sim­mons’ de­vel­op­ment as a point guard. That’s a le­git­i­mate con­cern. How­ever, that’s a prob­lem the Six­ers would be too happy to solve, if need be.

There are no guar­an­tees that Lowry will elect to be­come a Sixer. But the Six­ers would be fool­ish to not go af­ter some­one with his sta­tus and ties to Colan­gelo and Philadel­phia.

NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Philadel­phia colum­nists say the 76ers should go hard to sign Rap­tor fan favourite Kyle Lowry.

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