Kyle Lowry watched from the sidelines as his Toronto Raptors got bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the second round. It was the second tilt in a row he missed after sustaining an ankle injury in Game 2.
It may also be the last time he watches a Raptors game as a member of the team.
Lowry will become a free agent once he declines his player option, and while it’s been assumed that he, like DeMar DeRozan last year, would agree swiftly to a return, that’s not what Marc Stein was hearing toward the end of the year:
Late-season rumbles that Kyle Lowry will give legit thought to a free-agent switch to the West are sure to rise in volume after this series
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 7, 2017
At 31, Lowry does have the incentive to chase situation over money. He is going to be paid handsomely wherever he goes and perhaps could find a team better suited to contend—or one that at least isn’t forced to go through LeBron James to reach the NBA Finals.
But his foray into free agency isn’t that simple. He has spent the last three years on what turned out to be a below-market deal. He’ll likely want the max or something close to it. And since he’s eligible to receive 35 percent of next year’s cap in the first season of his new deal, his market could be inherently limited. Very few teams can carve out $35.4 million in cap space without jumping through a ton of hoops. Many of the ones that can, like the Denver Nuggets, aren’t in position to give the Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors a run for their money.
Unless the San Antonio Spurs are able to dump enough salary to enter the discussion, or the Raptors offend Lowry into taking meetings with the Dallas Mavericks because they refused to offer him market value, expect him to be back in Toronto–even if the process of his return isn’t a complete non-issue.