Kyle Lowry is going to be one of the most coveted players on the free agent market, and with good reason. The veteran point guard is a six-time NBA All-Star whose shooting and defense make him a strong fit for virtually any type of roster. The Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers pursued him at the trade deadline, and while all three are expected to pursue him in free agency this offseason, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, a new team has seemingly entered the mix as well.
The New Orleans Pelicans have emerged as a possibility for Lowry, according to Marc Stein. When the offseason began, the Pelicans didn't have an obvious path to acquiring Lowry. They had the ability to create roughly $13 million in cap space by renouncing their rights to Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, but even if that was something that they wanted to do, Lowry would surely want more. At the trade deadline, he reportedly wanted a two-year, $50 million pact from any team that acquired him.
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But a Monday trade with the Memphis Grizzlies made such an offer possible. The Pelicans are sending Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to Memphis in a deal that could get them to around $34 million in cap space. The cost was steep. They not only had to move from No. 10 in the upcoming NBA Draft down to No. 17, but they also had to give up the Lakers' 2022 first-round pick in the process. But the deal should position the Pelicans to make a strong offer for Lowry, or should they fail, keep Ball and Hart while also spending the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.
The Pelicans are one of the NBA's youngest teams. Giving such a big contract to a 35-year-old, through that lens, appears surprising. But reports have suggested that star forward Zion Williamson is already frustrated with the direction of the franchise after only two years as a Pelican. After failing to build contenders around Chris Paul and Anthony Davis, New Orleans seemingly wants to be proactive in putting the right teammates around Williamson, who has not yet made the playoffs as a professional.
The danger in doing so, of course, is what happened when the Pelicans tried to build around Davis. Big contracts for Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik hamstrung the Pelicans early in his career, and when they finally got cap space again in 2016, they used it on Solomon Hill and E'Twaun Moore. This is the danger in trying to rush through a rebuild. Doing so runs the risk of adding decent players on unwieldy contracts that make it significantly more difficult to add true difference-makers down the line.
The current iteration of the Pelicans is so asset-rich after trading Davis and Jrue Holiday that they are perhaps better-equipped to take such a risk. If the move backfires, they'll still have so much to trade that pivoting into a different sort of roster construction would still be feasible. That likely plays into their interest. Williamson becomes extension-eligible in a year. By pursuing Lowry, the Pelicans could prove to him that they are committed to winning, but do so in a way that wouldn't necessarily impede them from future moves.
Still, competition for Lowry will be fierce. The three teams that chased Lowry at the deadline are closer to contention than the Pelicans at this stage, so New Orleans would have to make a substantial financial offer to secure his signature.