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Report: Sixers still plan to pursue Kyle Lowry via sign-and-trade

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There could still be a chance Lowry ends up in Philly.

Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Kyle Lowry staying put in Toronto was probably the biggest surprise of this year’s NBA trade deadline. The Raptors and Lowry were ultimately content with not making the move. And from a Sixers standpoint, the likely asking price of a package including Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and two first-round picks was (understandably) too much.

Well, the Sixers haven’t given up their interest in Lowry just yet. As The Athletic’s Sam Amick and John Hollinger noted in an article looking ahead to free agency, the Sixers plan on pursuing Kyle Lowry via a sign-and-trade this offseason when Lowry becomes a free agent:

“Yet among the three teams known to be in hot pursuit of Lowry back then — the Lakers, Miami and Philadelphia — only the Heat are in a financial position to possibly sign Lowry outright this summer. Sources say the Sixers still plan on pursuing him by way of a possible sign-and-trade. While they added George Hill at the deadline in lieu of Lowry, only $1.2 million of his $10 million salary for next season is guaranteed, and the deal expires at that point. The Lowry interest remains very strong there.”

The Sixers should be in a better position to make something work this time, providing Lowry has interest in joining them in such a move. For one, the Sixers have George Hill now. His $10.04 million salary for 2021-22 (only $1.27 million is guaranteed) would be extremely useful in matching salaries. After only having limited small-to-medium contracts with guys like Danny Green (making $15.36 million this year) and Mike Scott (making $5 million) at the deadline to help match Lowry’s $30 million salary, having Hill to include in a potential sign-and-trade would be useful.

Of course, with Lowry’s connection to the Raptors as the most beloved player in the franchise’s history, the two sides will likely try to make something work well for all involved. But seeing as Lowry can walk away in free agency if he wants to, Toronto’s leverage won’t be quite the same. The Raptors will still want assets in return for their star, but the asking price could (and should) be lower than at the deadline. Things will also look different in the offseason from the Sixers’ point of view. Any incentive to offer more for Lowry at the deadline to maximize a title run this season is gone.

One issue for the Sixers would be pulling this off and staying under the tax apron — they can’t take on a player in a sign-and-trade if they’re over the apron. The Sixers are above the $138.9 million apron this season, and have just over $129.1 million on their books for next season (the figure for next year’s apron isn’t set yet). Depending on how much Lowry looks to make on his next contract, it could be difficult to make something work under the apron.

There’s also a real chance that Lowry may simply want to go somewhere else, if he’s decided he wants to move on from Toronto and find somewhere to contend. There was buzz at the trade deadline that his preferred destination was Miami, and he’s a close friend of Jimmy Butler. Plus, as Amick and Hollinger mentioned, the Heat could create enough cap space to sign Lowry outright.

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey explained after the trade deadline that he felt the Hill trade gave the team an upgrade for this season and kept their main assets in place for the future. We’ll have to wait a while to see what happens, but maybe the Sixers will find a way to acquire Lowry for an injection of playmaking, shooting and ball-handling after all.