The Toronto Raptors would have plenty of suitors if they decided to trade franchise cornerstone Kyle Lowry, who is in the final year of his contract.
Lowry is drawing interest from the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A source also tells Pompey that Lowry would be interested in playing for his hometown Sixers, who lead the Eastern Conference and have an obvious need at point guard.
Finding a trade for Lowry would be difficult. First, the 34-year-old is owed $30 million this season and is reportedly looking for another two years at the same rate this summer, according to Pompey. Lowry's production is still elite, so the demand is reasonable, but matching salary in a trade would require at least $24 million in outgoing salary, especially if the Raptors insisted on expiring deals.
For example, the Sixers would need to trade Danny Green, Mike Scott plus additional prospects and picks just to make it work, and such an unbalanced deal would require players being cut and likely additional teams involved to balance out the trade. The Clippers don't have enough expiring contracts and offloaded all their picks through the decade to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Paul George trade. The Heat are the only one of the three with both expiring deals (centred around Goran Dragic's $19 million), prospects and future picks.
The motivation for the Raptors to move Lowry is unclear. Pompey says Toronto would like to send Lowry to a team in contention so that he can further build his legacy, which could very well be possible, but the Raptors also aren't a charity. Lowry is the greatest player in franchise history and there is no immediate need to sever that relationship for middling prospects and late first-round picks. It's one thing if Lowry told management he won't re-sign this summer and asked for a trade, which would then put the pressure on the Raptors to collect assets in return. But there is no indication that Lowry has asked to move on.
However, it wouldn't be a surprise if this ended up being Lowry's final year with the Raptors, especially after reportedly putting his Toronto home on the market. The franchise is in a retooling phase as they transition to the next core of players who will try to build on what Lowry created, and the veteran wouldn't necessarily fit that timeline. Fred VanVleet is locked into a four-year deal to run point guard for the foreseeable future, and Norman Powell's emergence over the last two seasons may have secured his status as the shooting guard and a new contract for him this offseason. What the Raptors are missing is a two-way centre who can start for a winning team, and that's where where a deal involving Lowry could potentially lead.
Lowry is averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds. 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 this season.
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