Kyle Lowry is set to opt out of the final year of his Raptors contract and hit the free agent market. While the 31-year-old point guard should have his share of suitors, one team could hold a trump card: the chance to come home.
That team would be the Philadelphia 76ers, who represent the city where Lowry grew up and played college ball at Villanova. According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, not only does the veteran guard have an interest in signing with the Sixers, that team is similarly intrigued.
“Sources have said the North Philly native has been interested in playing for the Sixers for some time,” Pompey wrote Wednesday of Lowry. He added that “sources have always said that the Sixers planned to offer Lowry a lucrative contract this summer.”
That would represent a dramatic step in the 76ers’ infamous “Process,” in which the team has spent several years putting together bargain-basement squads while sacrificing present-day success in pursuit of young talent and draft picks that, in theory, will eventually pay off with championship-caliber rosters. Meanwhile, Lowry’s five seasons in Toronto have resulted in good regular seasons but playoff frustration, most recently a second-round sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
On Monday, a day after the Raptors were brusquely ousted from the postseason, Lowry announced that he was opting out, although he did not rule out returning to Toronto. In what could be an ominous sign for his chances of landing with the 76ers, Lowry said (via the Toronto Star) of his goal in free agency, “A ring. Nothing else. I just want a ring.”
However, Lowry went on to say, “I think I can do that [get a ring] anywhere I play. That’s just how confident I am.”
Philadelphia may not be able to offer immediate success, but it does have some exciting young players in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. The problem for the Sixers has been that Embiid has rarely been healthy in his three seasons, while Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, missed his entire rookie campaign with a foot injury.
Another problem has been that Jahlil Okafor has underwhelmed since becoming the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, and the team has been criticized for not acquiring an above-average guard to complement the aforementioned players, who are all 6 feet 10 or taller. Simmons has a reputation as an excellent passer, and there has been some thought that he could actually serve as his team’s point guard, but even if that were to happen, that wouldn’t necessarily preclude bringing in Lowry.
For one thing, the 76ers are sorely in need of some veteran leadership in their locker room, and if Lowry decides to go there, it could encourage other free agents to do the same. In addition, Lowry could help teach Simmons the tricks of the point guard trade, and he has the scoring skills to play off the ball.
From Lowry’s presumed perspective, Philly is not only his home town but the team has plenty of salary-cap space and could offer a maximum contract, something about which the Raptors may think twice. It likely doesn’t hurt that the 76ers’ president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, brought Lowry to Toronto while an executive with that team.
Lowry’s free agency could go in a number of directions, including essentially nowhere, if he stays put in Toronto. But if he signs with the 76ers, and especially if Embiid and Simmons stay healthy, Philadelphia could be home to a squad that gets dangerous in a hurry.