Free Agency

Why Kyle Lowry will take his sweet time

It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Kyle Lowry and his agent are going to wait a few days before making a decision. Of course they are.

For those who don’t speak the language, allow me to translate: it’s a bidding war. Make us your best offer. $12 million? Top that. Add an extra million per season. Throw in a fifth year. Promise you’ll add more pieces. Make me the center of your marketing strategy.

Lowry isn’t a diva, but he know he can have anything he wants. He’s sitting pretty with all the cards in his hand. Excess demand meeting short supply is literally the basis of professional sport. Lowry is irreplaceable. He holds the high ground in negotiations.

The Rockets need him because he’s their best bet at improving the team. Not only does he perfectly fit the team’s need for a defensively sound point guard with three-point accuracy and leadership, their other options are longshots at best. LeBron’s opt-out is nothing more than a flirtatious come-on to the league. Too many teams are in the hunt for Carmelo. There’s no need for Luol Deng, especially if they intend on keeping Chandler Parsons. Marcin Gortat is already off the table. The Rockets only need a power forward who could stretch the floor, or a floor general. As far as free-agents go, that’s just Lowry. The core is clearly talented enough to challenge for a title. Adding Lowry would be the final piece.

Meanwhile, Lowry’s other main suitor, that being the Raptors, are all-in. Not only has the notoriously silent organization reiterated on multiple occasions that Lowry is their main target, he’s a cornerstone in their grand re-branding plans. The team kept Lowry last season because the team generated too much positive momentum. Their brilliant #WeTheNorth marketing campaign was rushed forward a season with the idea of the team’s success being permanent. The 2016 All-Star game is around the corner. The city is now expecting success from the Raptors for once. That karma is hard to earn, especially from a city populated by notoriously fickle fans.

There’s the on-court factors as well. Take Lowry off the team, and what is left? Is the team appreciably better than, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers? The team built its new-found identities around Lowry’s strengths and skills. DeRozan operates off a pick-and-roll, gets doubled, makes the point-to-wing pass to Lowry, who then could shoot from the wing — of which he is excellent at — or drive to the hoop and hit the open man. Dwane Casey’s playbook is not complicated by any means, but it does center around Lowry. Take him away, and it’s back to the drawing board with no telling what the results will bear.

Finally, look at the recent Salmons-for-Williams deal in the big picture. While it’s great that Ujiri turned cap room into a useful rental and essentially a first-round pick, it also sacrificed what little cap room the Raptors could have opened. The same applies to the team choosing not to waive Tyler Hansbrough. As it currently stands, if Lowry leaves while Vasquez and Patterson re-sign for a little more than their qualifying offers, the team will have no cap room. There’s no Lowry replacement to be had using the Mid-Level Exception. Not at point guard, nor any other position.

Lowry has the Raptors, and to a lesser extent, the Rockets by the balls.

If a dumb blogger like me understands this, surely Lowry’s representation does as well. The carefully scripted quibble about wanting to win a championship is smart. That’s all posturing. It creates more position for Lowry because the Raptors understand their position relative to contenders like the Rockets and Heat. It shifts more power to Lowry, and moreover, the comment itself is impervious to backlash. Who can critique a player for wanting to win?

At the end of the day, Lowry is more likely to land in Toronto than anywhere else. Not only can the Raptors offer the most money, it’s also a situation he likes. He’s too blunt of a person to speak anything but his mind. Without prompt, he’s shown love to the city on multiple occasion, never falling short of praise each time. “I love this place. I love the situation. It’s simple as that.” Those were Lowry’s words back in May.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to pass up a chance to get his, and nor should he. Only a scant percentage of players reach even B-level free-agent status, and it would be foolish not to capitalize. Lowry has been fairly underpaid his whole career, earning just $29 million to date. This next contract could easily double that if he and his agent play it correctly.

And this current situation — where the Rockets and Raptors are bidding against each other with the threat of the Heat and Lakers looming in the background — is perfect. It’s just enough bidders to which Lowry could not only pick his destination, but also dictate the terms. There’s enough fear in both Daryl Morey and Masai Ujiri’s hearts.

So in the meantime, Lowry and his agent will continue to sit while the bidding plays itself out. There’s no rush. Unless Parsons signs a an offer sheet or the Rockets favor their chances of landing Carmelo, the equation will remain the same. All Lowry needs to do is wait. The best offer will come in due time.

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