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