2021 free agency is on its way as reports of deals that could occur as early as 6 PM today, begin to sprout in preparation for the madness. Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard, who headline this class, are set to decline their player options and become unrestricted free agents once things open on Monday. The expectation is that Paul and Leonard will rejoin their current teams, singing longer-term deals to allow their front offices to build championship-contending teams around them.
One marquee free agent set to change teams is long-time Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Apart from Paul and Leonard, Lowry is this year's most coveted free agent, and the list of suitors is long despite his advanced age. In Lowry, teams are looking for a veteran presence at the point guard position to help propel them to contender status while serving as a key pillar in building a lasting winning culture for the franchise. The Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, and more recently, the Miami Heat have emerged as the front runners in the Kyle Lowry sweepstakes, but it seems now as if the Heat could be Lowry's top choice at the moment.
Dallas and New Orleans are great options for Lowry, lovely cities with a set of young stars in need of veteran leadership to help take them to the next level. Both teams also struggle to make good decisions in closing minutes of games, something Lowry has made a living off of doing. Despite the presence of arguably two of the league's biggest young stars in Luka Dončić (Dallas) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans), the two franchises are still years away from championship contention. The amount of talent the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have at the moment will be too much for a young squad to overcome, even with a winner like Lowry.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, are two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat were underdogs in the series but still managed to push the Lakers to six games, something very few people expected. Joining the Miami Heat means that Lowry may be able to spend his last years in the league competing for a championship. As a player with a winning mentality like his, one can imagine that rings are still his top priority. The Heat may not have the star talent to match up with the league's biggest and brightest, but they are all about winning thanks to the likes of Pat Riley and star forward Jimmy Butler, and Kyle Lowry reportedly agrees.
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With Dragić and Achiuwa now under contract, the Heat can now offer the Raptors a promising young asset and an expiring contract in exchange for Lowry, something the Mavericks and Pelicans cannot do. Achiuwa is a beast on the boards that can complicate the athletic Raptors front line of Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher, while Dragić is a seasoned veteran that can show Fred Van Vleet and Malachi Flynn some tricks of the trade to help them develop into the guards of the future for Toronto's rebuild. Dragić will also become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, which will result in about $19 million worth of cap space to build the roster. Acquiring Dragić will practically eat up all of Toronto's cap space for this year, but we know Masai Ujiri and crew have a medium-term plan to rebuild their roster and are not looking for immediate results anyway.
For Miami, Lowry fits right into "Heat Culture" with his gritty defense and willingness to play within a system, giving the Heat a pass-first point guard that can maximize Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro's offensive talents, relieving them of some playmaking duties. In joining the Heat, Kyle Lowry will be alongside Jimmy Butler, a player that shares his gritty, team-first mindset. Lowry, Butler, and Adebayo may not strike one as a big three, but these are three guys that can score with the best of them while providing elite defense at the guard, wing, and big man position. They may be as explosive as Brooklyn or Milwaukee's big three on offense, but I can imagine how taxing a series against the Heat will be if the Heat were to add Lowry. Nothing will come easy for opponents, and there won't be a team in the league that will work harder and plays tougher than this version of the Miami Heat.
The Mavericks and Pelicans still seem like great destinations for Lowry, especially given the run Chris Paul had with the Phoenix Suns this year. The reality is, even if Paul led his team to the finals, they did not have enough in the tank to win it all against the Milwaukee Bucks. Lowry would face the same issues with Dallas or New Orleans, significantly improving their team but likely coming up short when faced with one of the league's powerhouses.
Miami offers a less glamorous line-up, but they competed for a ring not too long ago and have many of its core from their finals run on the roster. Plus, they are coached by one of the most experienced coaches in the league in Erik Spoelstra. Kyle Lowry can still be one of the three best players on a contender, so if he is going to leave Toronto, he might as well go to a team that knows how to get to the championship rounds by joining Jimmy Butler, Coach Spo, and the Miami Heat.