It is no secret that Kyle Lowry plans on opting out of his contract after the 2016-2017 NBA season, although he has claimed he has no intention of leaving Toronto, a lot can change throughout the NBA season.
He is currently among the top guards in the NBA and is part of one of the top backcourt pairings in the league alongside DeMar DeRozan. Last season, Lowry and DeRozan both averaged over 20 points per game and represented the Eastern Conference at the All-Star game.
The Toronto Raptors also found success as a team throughout the year, they finished second in the Conference and made it to the Conference Finals. So what exactly would make Lowry want to leave?
One factor could be a significant step back the team could take. They lost a top rim protector in Bismack Biyombo and this could significantly affect their interior defense. They did make a move to try and accommodate for that loss by bringing in Jared Sullinger, but he is not nearly the interior defensive presence that Biyombo was.
Another factor is the steps that Eastern Conference teams make. For example, if the Boston Celtics can be consistent enough to take the second seed, if the Pacers figure out how to maximize their offensive ability, if the Knicks can stay healthy and get the best out of their players, if the Bulls can learn to win without the 3-point shot, and if the Pistons or Hawks have surprising seasons, the Raptors could fall a spot or two in the standings.
Kyle Lowry is the type of player that will have a long list of teams interested in signing him if he decides to change his career path, and leave the Raptors in free agency. Some of these teams will be playoff teams looking for that missing piece, some will be looking for a franchise star, and some will look to pair him with another superstar. So which teams have the best chance at signing the star point guard if he hits the market?
1. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs seem to have their pieces in order for years to come, but one position they seem particularly weak at is the point guard position. Although Tony Parker is still a relatively reliable point guard at this point in his career, his production and minutes have been decreasing every season.
I would highly expect San Antonio to show interest and actively pursue Lowry if he were to become a free agent. This would give the Spurs offense a 20+ point per game player alongside Kawhi Leonard and LeMarcus Aldridge. The addition of Lowry would also help them prepare for the retirement of Manu Ginobili and eventually Tony Parker. This move would benefit Lowry as he will get the opportunity to play under a great coach in Gregg Popovich, and he will play for a championship contender.
2. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets currently feature one of the best players in the world in James Harden, but what the Rockets don’t have is a star point guard to pair him with.
Kyle Lowry played in Houston earlier in his career and I believe things will be different this time around. He would add another scoring threat in the Rockets offense, and under new coach Mike D’Antoni he will likely increase his point production as well.
This tandem of Lowry and Harden could cause nightmares for opposing defenses, and they will also have Patrick Beverly and Eric Gordon coming off of the bench to add even more strength to that backcourt.
Beverly was just around 10 points per game for the last few years and Lowry would bring his scoring punch to further improve Houston's offense. Beverly would be the perfect backup for Lowry and this addition could make Houston’s backcourt one of the deepest in the league.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta is also a potential candidate to land Kyle Lowry. They lost Jeff Teague to trade and Al Horford to free agency, but they added Dwight Howard to join the frontcourt alongside Paul Millsap.
The Hawks are banking on the transition that young point guard Dennis Schroeder will take the role of a starter. If Schroeder does not transition well into the starting role, Atlanta can find themselves in a messy situation.
Kyle Lowry would make this team a contender instantly. He can complement the frontcourt dominance Millsap and Howard are expected to achieve, and he will add a reliable scorer to the backcourt, and will allow Atlanta to run an offense where Kyle Korver would benefit from many open three point opportunities based on the attention the trio of Lowry, Millsap, and Howard will create on a nightly basis.
Korver made 158 threes last season, and if Lowry was a member of the backcourt in Atlanta, I would expect to see that total rise into the 200 range.