Kyle Lowry spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Miami Heat, but his time on South Beach has come to an end. They sent him to the Charlotte Hornets with a lottery-protected 2027 first-round pick in exchange for Terry Rozier on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
The Hornets “have no immediate plans to work on a buyout with Lowry,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, as they could move him again before the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline. They can’t aggregate his contract with anyone else’s, but they could use $29.7 million expiring contract to absorb a bloated salary in return along with draft capital and/or young prospects.
The Sixers shouldn’t have interest in trading for Lowry, as they’d likely have to include either Tobias Harris ($39.3 million) or a combination of Marcus Morris ($17.1 million) and Robert Covington ($11.7 million) for salary-matching purposes. But if the Hornets fail to trade Lowry by the deadline and he hits the buyout market—one league source told Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer that the Hornets would likely do just that—the Sixers might be in pole position to sign him.
In its unsubtle mission to thwart superteams, the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement changed the rules of the buyout market. There were previously no rules governing which teams could or couldn’t sign a player who cleared waivers, so long as they had a cap exception or a minimum contract and a roster spot up for grabs. That’s no longer the case. Teams over either salary-cap apron now can’t sign someone off the buyout market if they were previously earning more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (roughly $12.4 million this season).
The Heat, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets are all over the first apron right now, according to Salary Swish. Those teams make up five of the top six in terms of current title odds (Celtics, Nuggets, Bucks, Clippers and Suns), with the Sixers as the lone exception in that regard.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently hold a half-game lead for the top spot in the Western Conference, are well under the first apron, so they could be a viable buyout spot as well. The same goes for the New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, depending on how the next few weeks unfold.
There’s reason to believe that the Sixers would be uniquely positioned to land Lowry, though.
For one, he’s a Philadelphia native who went to college at Villanova. Lowry should look at how Marcus Morris’ return home has helped breathe some life back into his career. Lowry also spent three years playing under Sixers head coach Nick Nurse in Toronto and won a championship their first year together. Meanwhile, Daryl Morey’s Houston Rockets were the first team to give Lowry a real chance as an every-game starter, so he might feel some loyalty to Morey as well.
It can’t hurt that the Sixers have been telegraphing their desire to add another ball-handler alongside Tyrese Maxey and Patrick Beverley. As well as both have played this season, Beverley’s recent absences have underscored how perilously close the Sixers are to “backup point guard Furkan Korkmaz” minutes in the playoffs given their current depth chart.
The Sixers also have yet to dip into their mid-level exception. They could use some portion of their prorated $5 million taxpayer MLE to sign Lowry, whereas most other contenders can only offer him a prorated minimum-salary contract. They would have to stay below the first apron after signing him, but they’re currently $2.7 million under, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
The Sixers will have to see how the buyout market unfolds, but Lowry would give them some championship pedigree off the bench. He averaged only 8.2 points on 42.6 percent shooting, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game for Miami this season, but the combination of him and Patrick Beverley off the bench might be the most dog-in-him duo in NBA history.
Considering what they’d have to give up for salary-matching purposes, the Sixers should have little to no interest in trading for Lowry ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. But if the Hornets eventually set him free, the Sixers might have the inside track to sign him, and they should be interested in doing so.