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3 trades to finally bring Kyle Lowry to the Lakers

Amid the torrential stream of NBA news on Wednesday came this nugget, on the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers pursuing Kyle Lowry this summer, per The Athletic’s Eric Koreen:

Expect all three teams that kicked the tires on Lowry at the trade deadline to explore his availability once more. The Heat have the clearest path to acquiring him, while the Lakers’ contracts that they could move in a sign-and-trade are not overly desirable, although there is likely a deal to work out if both Lowry and the Lakers are deeply interested.

If you recall, the Lakers nearly pulled the trigger in March on a blockbuster that would have sent Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Talen Horton-Tucker to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Lowry (Schroder turned down a four-year, $84 million extension weeks earlier).

Ultimately, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka balked on parting ways with 20-year old Horton-Tucker for Lowry, 35, who was reportedly seeking a $50 million extension upon arrival.

Three months and one beleaguered playoff exit later, Lowry seems to be back in the mix as Pelinka aims to improve the Lakers’ “third banana” role while James approaches his age-37 campaign.

It won’t be easy. The Lakers are limited in trade assets and cap flexibility. However, they do have a slew of free agents with some value, including Schroder, 27, who may command relatively similar money to Lowry. A sign-and-trade is the likeliest way for Los Angeles to add a difference-maker.

Kyle Kuzma, 25, is set to make $13 million next season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (a Klutch Sports client), is perpetually on the proverbial table, though he’s more valuable to the Lakers.

LA can plausibly include under-30 players like Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, Montrezl Harrell, and Andre Drummond in sign-and-trade scenarios, with each player likely to command $8-15 million in 2021-22.

As for picks, the Lakers can trade no. 22 in the upcoming draft and their 2027 first-rounder (per Stepien Rule), in addition to a host of second-rounders.

One tricky component at play: Toronto has only four players guaranteed for next year, and three of them—OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet—won’t be in any Lowry deal. Malachi Flynn is due $2 million. Rodney Hood ($11M), Aron Baynes ($7.4M), and Chris Boucher ($7M) are on non-guaranteed contracts.

Upon some initial brainstorming and acknowledging a ton of variables, here are three potential ways the Lakers can remedy their deadline oversight.

For this exercise, let’s assume Lowry’s next contract will fall in the $20-$25M range, and that a few milly here or there can be worked out by the parties involved, should they, in fact, be “deeply” interested in a partnership.

1. Lakers get Lowry, Raptors get Schroder (S&T), 2027 first-rounder, two second-rounders, cash

This is the simplest solution. In this instance, the market values Schroder in the same ballpark as Lowry, allowing the Lakers to sweeten the pot with draft compensation.

Schroder probably didn’t raise his stock price with a shoddy May and June, though he did play well on both ends for much of the season. I’m not sure how appealing that 2027 pick truly is, but Masaj Ujiri could do worse than a first-rounder and Schroder for an out-the-door 15-year veteran.

2. Lakers get Lowry, Raptors get Schroder, 2022 first-rounder, 2023 second-rounder

In this version, the Lakers deal Schroder and whoever they select no. 22 overall on July 29, who will cost about $2 million against the cap.

Ujiri may prefer a more proven young player, while some Lakers fans may recoil at the idea of trading a first round talent (Chris Duarte?) for Lowry.

3. Lakers get Lowry, Raptors get Caruso (S&T), and Kuzma

Considering THT was the sticking point at the deadline, I doubt the Lakers would reverse course and make the move now.

Like THT, Caruso and Kuzma are part of the Lakers homegrown “core” that Pelinka wants to keep intact. Nothing is set in stone, though.

Kuzma, 25, struggled against the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs (6.3 PPG), though he’s generally impressed by diversifying his game over the past two years. His exceedingly fair contract starts next season at $13 million against the cap. The Lakers shopped Kuz at the deadline.

Caruso may be in line to earn the mid-level exception ($8-9 million), which could pair with Kuzma’s deal in exchange for Lowry.

LeBron and Anthony Davis will have a significant influence on major personnel moves, and the stars could get enticed by the idea of Lowry, even at the cost of two championship-winning teammates.

In this scenario, the Lakers would let Schroder walk, freeing up wiggle room to comfortably re-sign THT, ease the luxury tax bill, and/or make another trade.

Ultimately, these aren’t the worst offers for a soon-to-be 36-year old point guard (who is still extremely good), but the Raptors will field plenty of bids. The Lakers can make the numbers work, but whether they can present the most appealing package will be a challenge.

It’s worth trying, though. Lest we forget: When there’s a will, there’s a way.