Following the Cavs’ second-round sweep of the Raptors, Kyle Lowry said Monday that he will opt out of his contract with Toronto to explore free agency. This means his beautiful on-court relationship with DeMar DeRozan may end (though DDR promised their bond goes beyond basketball), and that he needs a new team. We’ve surveyed the landscape, and here are five suggestions for where he should go.
Danny Chau: The Nuggets play an ecstatic brand of basketball, and it largely has to do with the fact that their best distributor, Nikola Jokic, is a 6-foot-10 center and they don’t have a ball-pounding point guard. The Nuggets offense was the way it was due to necessity. Emmanuel Mudiay could run the pick-and-roll, but his inability to shoot created more dead ends than alleyways for his teammates; the 35-year-old Jameer Nelson was inserted as a stopgap, if only to give the Nuggets core a better idea of just what their offense could look like with an above-average 3-point shooter at the 1.
So then where does a player like Lowry fit in? Everywhere. Lowry does everything Nelson can, but better by an order of magnitude. There are elements of Lowry’s game that Nelson couldn’t possibly do at this stage in his career. One of Lowry’s strengths is creating opportunities in the pick-and-roll, even when he isn’t handling the ball. Some of the best offensive sets in the Raptors’ repertoire used Lowry off the ball as a screener, which helped create driving room for DeMar DeRozan or free up space for players like Patrick Patterson in the corners. Having an elite point guard who can create his own shot when he wants to, especially one willing to play within a team concept, is never a bad thing.
Dropping Lowry into Denver doesn’t immediately solve his ring dilemma, but it might not take too long for the Nuggets to change that perception. It was only a year ago that Dwyane Wade puzzled the entire league by talking with the Nuggets as a potential destination. Wade saw what most couldn’t — a young team that has the assets to make a quantum leap at a moment’s notice. Lowry could be their first power play.
San Antonio Spurs
Chris Ryan: For years, the Spurs have been the model of self-sustainability, building the franchise on homegrown stars. Two years ago they made an uncharacteristic splash in the free-agent market by signing LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ve won 128 regular-season games since his arrival, but he has not exactly erased Tim Duncan from our collective memories. So would Gregg Popovich get frisky again with another aging star who hasn’t proved himself to be a postseason performer?
He should. He should sign Kyle Lowry. First off: Chris Paul is not signing with San Antonio, so put that out of your mind. Paul is going to get $200 million from the Clippers and he is going to fulfill his apparent destiny of being this generation’s John Stockton, and there are worse things to be. The next-best option would be Lowry. He is the available player who gets them closest to the Warriors, and the Spurs are the best non-Warriors/Cavs option for Lowry, if he wants a ring.
This is the endgame for Popovich. He doesn’t have five years for Dejounte Murray to grow into Tony Parker’s role; he needs someone who can be better than Parker on day one.
Juliet Litman: One of Lowry’s best assets is he’s comfortable playing with other top-shelf talent. He looked like he had the time of his life at the Rio Olympics, and he is nearly as well known for being DeMar DeRozan’s best friend as he is for that time he was alone shooting in the gym. His penchant for friendship and late-night hoops sessions makes him a great teammate for Paul George.
The Pacers star has been aggrieved, believing his team is not worthy of his talents. Myles Turner and Lance Stephenson aside, it’s true. What max player with a signature shoe and a few off-court challenges (that he admirably overcame) would want C.J. Miles taking the last shot? Paul George does need help, but he also should be The Guy. That’s why Kyle Lowry needs to go to Indiana.
Lowry would help carry the load on offense while deferring to George when appropriate. He’s accustomed to watching a talented teammate hoist up shots, except DeRozan shot 47 percent this year, with 124 attempted 3s at 27 percent. George shot 46 percent with 496 attempted 3s at 39 percent. That is exactly four times as many 3s as George. Toronto had many problems against Cleveland, scoring chief among them. If Lowry joins Indiana, George solves that problem. And while there’s no guarantee PG stays in Indy, Lowry’s friendship could be a draw in and of itself. Surely Kyle can charm George into staying.
Haley O’Shaughnessy: Kyle — you’re 31. And although proof exists that former Raptors can still hang after 40, the clock for your legs (and wrist, and ankles) is ticking. Presenting: Milwaukee, a location with similar weather, but less Drake. The Bucks are a prewrapped championship team just missing the next-level PG to be the bow on top.
LeBron’s presence has plagued every Eastern Conference contender for the past 10 seasons. And while Cleveland’s cap space is loaded with the contracts of Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, Lowry can still get himself a generational player in the Greek Freak. As a bonus, Lowry averaged more points in Wisconsin than at home in the first-round series. He should pull a reverse-Durant: If you can beat ’em, join ’em.
Paolo Uggetti: By now we know how this goes: The Mavericks enter free agency with their eyes and their wallets on the big name. Mark Cuban, unabashedly believing that Dallas is exactly where that player should be, goes after said player like Russell Westbrook goes after a 10th rebound. Come June I’m sure we’ll see headlines like, "Mark Cuban is going hard after Blake Griffin. No emoji necessary," or even, "Mark Cuban wants to sell Steph Curry on the idea of playing with his brother in Dallas." In free agency, nothing will stop Cuban from thinking anything is possible. He’s a shark. Just ask Chandler Parsons.
But here’s the thing: Dallas, wrapped in its Texas charm and lorded over by noted coaching genius Rick Carlisle (though its future is murky), will probably strike out on the biggest free agents. It’s what the Mavs do. And so Cuban will throw a max contract at Kyle Lowry, who could fit decently as the veteran point guard to mentor young guns Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry (if they keep them), while playing alongside Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Wesley Matthews. It might also be a nice change of scenery.
It may not be financially wise for the Mavs to throw that much change at a 31-year-old, declining Lowry. But as Cuban collects mid-to-top-level talent to give Dirk a proper swan song, this roster with Lowry might be good enough for an 8- or a 7-seed in the West. (Don’t quote me on that.) All I’m saying is come July, don’t be surprised if we see a picture of Cuban and Lowry holding a contract in a dark Toronto nightclub as Kyle’s final goodbye to #TheNorth.
An earlier version of this piece included Devin Harris in the list of Dallas’s young guns. He is 34.