On Monday morning The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Sixers and Heat are “leaders in pursuit to acquire Kyle Lowry.” Other outlets have reported similarly in recent days, with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor indicating that Miami is pursuing him “harder than anyone.”
While Sixers-Lowry trade rumors have ebbed and flowed for the past few weeks, with three days until the NBA trade deadline (Thursday at 3pm) these reports indicate that Daryl Morey is firmly considering a trade for the Philly-native and six-time All-Star.
There’s no doubt about Lowry’s ability as a dynamic scorer—he can shoot, finish around the rim, and create off the dribble—and as plus on-ball defender at the point of attack he fills major needs for the Sixers on both ends of the floor. In a vacuum, he’s clearly the sort of player who moves the needle in terms of contending for the Finals, but that’s not the question.
Since the Sixers are a taxpaying team (over the luxury tax) Daryl Morey needs to follow more strict “salary matching” rules in any potential trades—according to the CBA, “for teams [who] exceed the Tax Level for the current year, a traded player may be replaced by one or more players acquired [by trade] whose aggregate salaries do not exceed 125% of the salaries of players being traded.” In other words, in any potential trade Morey needs to send back 80% of the acquired player’s salary in order to “match” contracts.
In the case of Lowry’s $30 million, the Sixers need to send $24 million in outgoing salaries to Toronto in order to make any deal work. While they have enough non-rotation pieces (Bradley, Ferguson, Scott, Poirier, etc…) whose aggregate salaries allow them to trade for up to a $20-$22 million cap hit, in order to acquire any more than that they’ll need to include a salary from a player currently in the team’s rotation—either Danny Green’s $15 million, or Seth Curry’s $8 million.
With that, the question is simple: does adding Kyle Lowry and subtracting one of Green or Curry make the Sixers a Finals contender?
Morey acquired Danny Green this offseason with the express desire of adding a 3-and-D player who provides legitimate gravity as a catch-and-shoot threat around Embiid and Simmons, and also someone with extensive Finals experience to add to the locker room. By all indications he’s been exactly that and then some; connecting at 39% from deep on a team-leading 6.1 attempts per game, amassing 103 total makes on the season (36 more than the next closest Sixer). In terms of gravity, Green ranks in the 80th percentile in the NBA, as he continues to hit difficult shots against defenses that pay more attention to him than any other role player on the Sixers (it’s not even close).
Curry, on the other hand, has been a productive floor spacer (connecting at 43% from deep, 51% catch-and-shoot) who provides enough secondary creation to satisfy off the bench. While most will admit he’s an expendable skillset in terms of the playoffs (he won’t play big minutes), his team-friendly contract (3/$27 million) is perceived as too valuable to trade for a team with three max contacts on the books.
While Danny Green is the player most pundits include as the salary to “match” any hypothetical Lowry trade, Curry is more likely to be added to that deal not just because he’s less essential to the rotation than Green, but because his contract/age gives him the potential to be flipped by Toronto for more assets in the future. Where Green’s expiring contract makes him nothing more than a salary dump, Curry actually has value as an asset in the deal.
To be clear, I’m not against either of these trades, they just aren’t as straightforward as some would lead you to believe. I understand the argument of trading Curry (despite his team-friendly deal) considering he’s not essential to the playoff rotation once you add Lowry; but the argument that swapping Green for Lowry makes the Sixers a Finals contender is a tough-sell considering how much he’s impacted this roster on both ends of the floor.
In my opinion, rather than breaking the bank of assets and shipping away a current rotation player (Curry, Green) for a guard on the wrong side of 30 (he’ll be 35 on Thursday) the Sixers are better off targeting more-affordable options who provide a similar impact on both ends of the floor.
I understand the trade market is relatively bare this year, but two more palatable options who we know are available are Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier. I’ve written and spoken extensively on the underrated skillset that Fournier brings to the table (you can find that argument here) and while I think an Oladipo deal is unlikely for a number of reasons, he can at least be afforded without giving up one of Curry or Green in return (the catch is he’s seeking a max contract this offseason). Either of these moves puts the Sixers in a better position to contend for the Finals than a Lowry deal would.