Pros and cons: Does signing Kyle Lowry to a max contract make sense for Sixers?

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With NBA free agency looming, teams are trying to figure out how to create cap space while also assessing which players they should target. This year’s free agent class has the potential, albeit unlikely, to redefine the NBA as we know it today. Players like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are both free agents pending the conclusion of the finals, however neither have shown any desire to leave the Warriors. Other big names on the market that could be wearing a new uniform next season include Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, and Kyle Lowry. Lowry could wind up coming back to join his hometown Philadelphia Sixers but the question is whether or not the team should offer him a maximum contract.

Kyle Lowry went to Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia before attending Villanova University for two seasons. At Nova, he played in Jay Wright’s famous four-guard offense. He was joined in the backcourt with fellow guards Allen Ray, Mike Nardi and Randy Foye. Lowry’s second year, in 2006, the Wildcats finished the year 28-5 and as a one seed in the NCAA tournament. They were eliminated in the Elite Eight with a loss to the eventual National Champions, the Florida Gators. Lowry declared for the draft after the loss.

Kyle Lowry was selected 26th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2006 NBA Draft. His three year stint with the Grizzlies did not go as planned. Lowry was oft injured buried on the depth chart. His fate was not much better during his tenure with the Houston Rockets, however he did flash potential for growth and that’s what he did when he reached Toronto. Kyle Lowry has been on the Raptors since 2012 and his growth has skyrocketed over the past three seasons.

Lowry’s rise to prominence coincided with the franchise’s decision to trade away arguably their best offensive player Rudy Gay. Gay was shipped to Sacramento in 2013 after a poor start to the season. Lowry and shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, both improved drastically throughout the season. They have grown into one of the best backcourts in the NBA. The two of them led the Raptors to their first ever conference finals appearance last year. Toronto resigned DeRozan last off-season to a five-year $139 million contract. They’ll look to do the same with Lowry but it might not be that easy.

Kyle Lowry has made his desire to return home well known. The Sixers’ hole at point guard has been an area of need for years. The reunion makes sense on paper in that regard. But does the timing align and what would he contribute to this team?

Kyle Lowry is likely to receive a maximum contract this offseason. In the event he signs one with a new team, the numbers would be approximately 4-years $153 million (broken down into approximately $35 mil, $37 mil, $39 mil, and $41 mil). Should he choose to remain in Toronto, they would be able to offer him a fifth year under contract and that additional season would net him approximately $47 mil, making the contract worth a total of $207 million. It could be hard for him to walk away from that added money.

Philadelphia has an obscene amount of cap space for the upcoming summer. The Sixers only have approximately $36 million dedicated to players on the roster for next season with the salary cap continuing to increase landing roughly at $101 million. The team has the option of extending both Gerald Henderson ($9 mil) and Robert Covington ($1.08 mil). Henderson’s future with the team is in serious jeopardy.

He has provided tremendous veteran leadership this season but the price tag might be too steep. Using the team option for another year with Covington seems like a no-brainer. He has become a premier perimeter defender and will likely command $13-$15 mil a year on the market, so the team should capitalize on a low price tag and then extend him. It also important to note that Joel Embiid only has one more year under contract and he will probably earn a max contract.

In the event Philadelphia decides to utilize the team options on both Henderson and Covington that would leave the Sixers will approximately $50 million short of the salary cap. It also should be noted that the team will need to leave some room for their draft class to sign contracts. With that much money available to spend, offering Lowry a max contact is certainly a possibility.

Kyle Lowry is 31 and will be entering his twelfth NBA season. He has a long history of injuries and has only played in 70 or more games five times. Spending this much money on a player with such a long list of injuries could prove costly years from now. Not only that, but he would be under contract with Philadelphia until he is 35. It is realistic to expect his play to decline by then even if the prime of his career came in his late 20s. His prime will realistically end before the Sixers are contending for a title and that in itself could be reason enough to save that cap space for a player whose prime coincides with the Sixers’ best chances for title contention.

Kyle Lowry could be the free agent Philadelphia needs. The last somewhat meaningful free agent signing, prior to Henderson and Jerryd Bayless last year, could quite possibly be Spencer Hawes in the summer of 2012. That’s downright pitiful. Good NBA players want to go play for legitimate NBA teams and they want the realistic opportunity to win. Philadelphia has been such an irrelevant destination for free agents, a star of Lowry’s caliber signing with the Sixers could change how players view Philly. He alone could make Philly an appealing place to play for free agents. This signing could hypothetically lead to future free agents to come to the city of brotherly love and this point could prove to be the most critical aspect of the signing.

The Sixers have made it clear that they plan on letting last year’s first overall pick Ben Simmons play point guard. It would make little sense to sign a point guard to a max contract if Simmons is expected to play the same position. Both players need the ball in their hands to be successful. Lowry’s shooting isn’t good enough to hide Simmons’ deficiencies. The signing would not make sense unless the plan on starting Simmons at the forward position and let him bring the ball up when Lowry is on the bench. His fit with the team is not perfect but could be manageable.

Kyle Lowry is a 31-year-old injury prone point guard who will sign a max contract this summer. The two biggest risks are that he won’t be able to remain healthy and that he will decline before the contract expires. Both of these negative possibilities are very real and could happen. That being said, if he signs with Philadelphia, he will bring a new level of legitimacy to Philadelphia basketball that has sorely been missed for the better part of half a decade.

 

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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