We are only two weeks out from the start of NBA free agency, and the rumor mill is picking up some serious steam.
For example, over this weekend, we learned that the Bulls could become “big spenders,” particularly in the point guard corner of the market, as they look to surround their two existing All-Stars with upgraded talent. And in that same report from the Action Network’s Matt Moore, we also learned that high-profile free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry could be on the team’s radar.
Considering that he is one of the top talents at a position of need, I wasn’t immediately shocked to see his name entering the mix. Buuuut at the same time, Lowry, 35, is an older player whose earned the sort of contract that could pay him upwards of $25 million a year. Do we think the Bulls are really prepared to drop that kind of money on a 35-year-old point guard, even a talent and positional fit like Lowry? To be honest, not really. Not when there are younger and cheaper (albeit less immediately impactful) options on the market who could provide more flexibility for the front office to continue building for seasons to come.
For example, the Bulls have been endlessly connected to 23-year-old restricted free agent point guard Lonzo Ball since the trade deadline. And now, somewhat ironically, a new report about Lowry’s potential suitors could make it even easier for Arturas Karnisovas to pursue Ball.
According to NBA Insider Marc Stein, the Pelicans are expected to make a push for Lowry’s services this summer.
There is rising buzz New Orleans plans to enter the race for free agent-to-be Kyle Lowry, league sources say.
There will be several Lowry suitors but it's clear why the Pels, desperate to help Zion Williamson reach the playoffs, would want in.
More NBA: https://t.co/LGN9cV7Dif
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 19, 2021
We had already heard that the Pelicans are unlikely to match a significant offer sheet for Ball this summer. But throw in a hard push for Lowry, and it further emphasizes the organization’s willingness (eagerness?) to move on from Ball.
The bad news for the Pelicans is that landing Lowry is a lot easier said than done. And it comes with another twist for the Bulls pursuit of Ball. Follow me here for a second.
Not only are teams like the 76ers and Heat also interested in Lowry (two squads with a more recent record of high level success), but the financial situation in New Orleans is tricky. The organization is in line to operate as an over-the-cap team next season. Which means they do not currently have enough cap space to offer Lowry a truly competitive offer without moving on from someone like Steven Adams ($17M this season, $17.9M in 2022-23) or Eric Bledsoe ($18.1 million this season).
I have to imagine if the Bulls revisit sign-and-trade discussions with the Pelicans about Ball, the Pelicans would try to lump one of these two into the picture. However, unless Karnisovas is truly scared that New Orleans will match an offersheet for Ball (which, again, all reports suggest they will not), it would be pretty silly to eat either contract.
For what it’s worth, rumors have swirled since the deadline that the Pelicans could try to convince a franchise to take on one of those guys to open up some cap space …
Sources say there’s an expectation that at least one of them will be on the move this offseason, with hopes of adding more depth to the roster. It’s unclear how much New Orleans would be willing to give up to make sure a trade happens involving either one of them.
… But, again, it just doesn’t make much sense for the Bulls. Not to mention, it would also be pretty silly to truly threaten to match a contract for Ball when the goal is clearly to land Lowry (the Pelicans need the cap space for a real run at the veteran point guard, let alone the open spot in the starting lineup). So, yeah, this generally feels like good news for Chicago.
While the Bulls may still have to deal with other, more financially flexible franchises showing interest in Lonzo Ball (i.e. the Knicks), they are least becoming more sure of the fact that they will get a fair shot at Ball this summer.
The only problem that could occur is if the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans begin to talk about their own sign-and-trade swap of Ball for Lowry. But that feels too difficult to pull off. Not only are the Raptors in a position where they could draft their point guard of the future in Jalen Suggs, but Ball would also have to want to go to Toronto. I’m not sure he finds that as the best landing spot.