Kyle Lowry’s potential trade destinations if/when Raptors decide it's 'time to move on'

Kyle Lowry’s potential trade destinations if/when Raptors decide it's 'time to move on'

He could be waving hello to some other team soon most likely.
He could be waving hello to some other team soon most likely.
Image: Getty Images

Longtime Toronto Raptor Kyle Lowry is one expiring contract who could swing the NBA championship picture as much as anyone likely to be dealt by March 25’s deadline. That is, outside of a shocking Bradley Beal or Ben Simmons transaction. Or perhaps a Victor Oladipo re-routing, but even that’s dependent on fit.

According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, sources within the NBA see the Raptors and Lowry heading for a parting of ways, perhaps sooner than later. Fischer writes:

There is a portion of Raptors personnel, league sources said, that believes the franchise should bid its beloved All-Star farewell and begin Toronto’s next chapter in earnest. “There’s a time capsule for everybody and everything,” said one Western Conference executive, “and it’s probably just time to move on.”

Though the Raptors are only 11-13, and sit at eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Lowry’s putting forth another productive season, averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds. He’s hitting 42.6 percent from the field, which is actually his best tally in three seasons, as well as shooting 36.9 percent from three, his best rate since 2017-18. Lowry’s also draining 87.3 percent on free throws, his best since his rookie season of 2006-07, though he’s only going to the line 3.4 times per game, an enormous drop from 5.9 in 2019-20.

Lowry will turn 35 on the day of the deadline and is due to earn $30 million this season, making him an enticing veteran on an expiring contract. Here are the teams worth monitoring in the Lowry sweepstakes.

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Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers

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It feels a lifetime ago, but we’re only one full season removed from Kawhi Leonard winning a championship with Lowry and the Raptors in 2019. Not only that, but Leonard reportedly pushed the Clippers to acquire a legitimate point guard this past off-season (sorry, Patrick Beverley) as he and Paul George set out to prove their legitimacy as contenders. Though the Clippers have used eight starting lineups this season, their five of Beverley, George, Leonard, Nicolas Batum, and Serge Ibaka is the only one to tip-off more than four times this season and currently sits at 12 starts.

The often-injured Beverley has only logged 16 appearances this season and has been out since January 24 with a knee injury. The noted defensive specialist only has an 0.3 defensive box plus-minus, the lowest of his career outside of his 0.1 in 2015-16 with the Houston Rockets. Offensively, his -0.7 is his worst box plus-minus, and he’s only at 1.1 win shares, significantly dropped off from 3.6 one season ago and 4.8 the season before. As the team’s starting point guard, Beverley has averaged 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, which mostly mirrors his career averages, outside the significant drop from his career 3.4 assists per game. His assist tally also places him sixth on the team per game and per 36 minutes.

As far as possible trade chips, Masai Ujiri isn’t just moving Lowry for the hell of it, and the army of firsts sent to Oklahoma City doesn’t help the Clippers in terms of draft equity. They do have two second-round picks in every draft from 2022-to-2026 and a tradeable first in 2027. They’ll have to match salaries, meaning a package including Beverley’s $13.3 million, Lou Williams’ $8.0 million, Ivica Zubac’s $7.0 million (for two more years) would have to be in play, along with one or two recent draft picks, like Terance Mann and or Mfiondu Kabengele.

If the salaries and picks would be up to the Raptors’ liking, Lowry would be a seamless fit next to Leonard and George, giving them a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers to worry about on both ends during the playoffs.

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Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

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Luka Doncic isn’t a leader yet, and the Mavericks badly need an adult in the room. You could go as far as to argue that JJ Barea is missed in the Mavericks locker room because of what he meant for Doncic’s maturity. (Barea touched on this in a fun podcast with JJ Redick recently.)

Separately, the Mavericks could use another ball-handler who could simply give Doncic a break from doing everything offensively. Doncic’s 35.7 usage rate is second only to Bradley Beal in the NBA. Kristaps Porzingis has missed about half the season and has a usage rate over 27, but of everyone who hasn’t missed significant time, Tim Hardaway Jr. is next at 22.2. Doncic, who averages 27.8 points, 9.3 assists, and 8.7 rebounds, is the only Maverick averaging more than 3.5 assists per game, at least 5.5 assists per 36 minutes, and he’s the only player on the team with at least 75 total assists. Dallas could use a true point guard, as well as a leadership presence in the locker room, and Lowry would be as ideal as they come.

Regarding actual compensation, the Mavericks have Tim Hardway’s $19 million and James Johnson’s $16 million, both of which are expiring. Josh Richardson is due $10.8 million this season with an $11.6 player option for 2021-22. Jalen Brunson, Tyrell Terry, and Wes Iwundu could be younger players to watch. The Mavericks have first-round picks in 2022, 2024, 2025, and 2027 the two teams could litigate over.

Or… or… or the trade could just be Lowry for Porzingis straight up. Porzingis is due $31.6 and $33.8 million in each of the next two seasons, with an over $36 million option for 2023-24. Ujiri may want a pick or two to accompany the injury-plagued Latvian. Rightfully so.

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Miami Heat

Miami Heat

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On Miami Heat Twitter, there’s long been a divide between whether or not to trade Tyler Herro, whether or not to trade Duncan Robinson, whether or not you’d trade both, and which one you’d rather move before the other. All perspectives vary and should be dependent on who is the incoming player(s), in the interest of fit. The Heat are just 9-14, but they’re at least mostly healthy now as Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley remain out with injuries, and Bradley is expected to miss a month. They’re struggling in many areas where Lowry would help, and although they need a big beside Bam Adebayo more than anything else, they could also use a true point guard who could log 30-ish reliable minutes per game.

The rumored logical trade package for the Heat to use as a springboard has long been some combination of Kendrick Nunn, Kelly Olnynk, and a first-round pick. That alone isn’t enough to match Lowry’s salary, but adding in Andre Iguodala would do. If the Heat wanted to keep Iguodala, they could swap in season-ending injury victim Meyers Leonard’s $9 million expiring deal and another young piece like KZ Okpala, who hasn’t fulfilled the internal expectations that led to the Heat moving three second-rounders for him in 2019. Ethan Skolnick of 5 Reasons Sports has long reported that some in the Heat believed Okpala was a better prospect than Herro coming out of the same draft class. The Raptors will unquestionably want young pieces and/or picks to complement expiring salary to match, especially if they’re dealing a franchise legend.

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Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets

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The 12-11 Nuggets are off to an underwhelming start and currently face a three-game losing skid. They’re among the NBA’s worst defensive teams despite having the seventh-best record in the West. Averaging 27.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists, Nikola Jokic’s name is being thrown around the MVP conversation, but the sizable Serbian savant could use some aid. Jamal Murray is back to his 18-4-4 pre-bubble self, Michael Porter Jr. is promising but missed nearly one month due to COVID and has produced inconsistently, and generally, most Nuggets have missed time this season.

The team is 20th in opposing points per game, 24th in defensive rating, and 28th in pace. They’re also a sneaky contender to make some move this season. Like the teams above, they have a point guard who neither their best nor second-best playmaker, unless you’re willing to consider Doncic as a one. Lowry automatically becomes Denver’s second-best playmaker and probably their second-best player overall as soon as he’d land in Denver.

The only expiring salary on the roster is Paul Millsap’s $10 million. Will Barton ($13.9 million) has a player option for over $14 million next year, and Isaiah Hartenstein ($1.4 million) has a player option for $1.7 million next season. Gary Harris is a player the Nuggets would probably like to deal, though his production is still lackluster, and he’s due another $20 million next season. Young players who are intriguing and hover around $2 million (while under control through 2024) are recent draft picks RJ Hampton and Zeke Nnaji, as well as Bol Bol, who is signed through next season. Other than their 2023rd first, which is lottery-protected to the Thunder, the Nuggets have all their firsts under control.

Jamal Murray, who is in the first of a five-year max, is making over $27 million this season. Worth mentioning.

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Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers

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Lowry, the Philadelphia native, the Villanova alum, returns home.

The Sixers are currently first in the Eastern Conference with a 17-7 record in the Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey era, but no one NBA team has a stranglehold on this oddity of a season thus far. Joel Embiid has looked like an MVP frontrunner, Tobias Harris should command All-Star consideration at the absolute minimum, and Ben Simmons, for better or worse, still looks like the same guy he was as a rookie. While the team’s playmaking could improve, Simmons is averaging his usual 8.0 assists per game, but as great as Embiid has been, working with Lowry would decrease his offensive workload, give the Sixers someone who could create a shot in the game’s final two minutes, and give the roster a leader it needs.

What people forget about the Embiid and Simmons pairing is that they were at their best in 2018-19 when Jimmy Butler was present to carry the load. You could see the semifinal stats against the Raptors that season for yourselves. Lowry could have a similar impact, and it appears that Embiid may be ready to shoulder the responsibility, but a true point guard (who is willing to shoot from the outside) would help. It will matter come playoff time, and Lowry is a proven champion.

Regarding an actual deal, the Sixers have several expirings, most notably Danny Green’s $15.4 million. They have several young pieces, led by Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and Shake Milton, who are all making less than $3 million each this season, and they have most of their first-round picks going forward, which were discussed in the Harden deal before he went to Brooklyn.

They also have Ben Simmons at nearly $30 million, and he’s maxed out through 2025. Again, just saying.

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