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Pursuing Kyle Lowry in free agency makes a lot of sense for Pelicans

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But at what cost?

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Toronto Raptors v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans are reportedly going to pursue Kyle Lowry in free agency, per Marc Stein.

This rumor makes so much sense from multiple angles when thinking back to last season, especially with Lonzo Ball’s status entirely up in the air. The Pelicans backcourt was the weakest link in the starting lineup, end of close game situations begged for greater organization and execution, and in general, real leadership was missing in the locker room.

Lowry can help fill those voids, but it would come at a steep cost for the Pelicans.

With New Orleans expected to compete against more appealing win-now situations like in Miami and Philadelphia, the Pelicans are going to have to offer top dollar to get Lowry’s attention. I’m thinking a ballpark figure will have to sit in the range of $23-27 million per season for over the next three years. (Sign-and-trades must be for a minimum of three years but a fourth year brings complications of NBA Over-38 rule into play).

My hope is that David Griffin could entice Lowry with something along the lines of a 3-year, $60 million contract which includes a partial guarantee on the third season, but it’s conceivably that as much as $80 million or more might have to be on the table.

While there’s legitimate apprehension in signing a 35-year-old to a very lucrative contract, whose minutes, availability and production will continue to decline as he ages, realize the Pelicans best bet to improve drastically on day one of the Willie Green era is by adding a a player of Lowry’s caliber. Does Zion Williamson and his family warrant inorganically speeding up the process and sacrificing valuable assets?

The 15-year veteran averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 threes on solid shooting percentages (43.6 FG%, 39.6 3PT%, 87.5 FT%) for the Toronto Raptors last season. Those numbers are solid, but this Pelicans core could greatly benefit from his all his abilities.

Lowry is a savvy decision-maker, clutch-time performer and scrappy defender. He’s one of the fiercest competitors in the league. He’s not afraid of taking big shots. He’s always looking to slide into space and draw a momentum-changing charge, even if it’s during exhibition play like an All-Star game.

Lowry has played on the NBA’s biggest stage and has a championship ring to his credit. Simply put, he has been there, done that. For a roster that has yet to accomplish much of anything, Lowry represents a golden ticket to fast track the process here in New Orleans — hopefully similar to how Phoenix turned their fortunes around overnight.

While the Suns are facing elimination in the NBA Finals, a failure to walk away with the 2021 Championship will not mar the immense success of their campaign. They went from missing the playoffs to the No. 2 seed in the West. Their playoff run has been a dominant one until now.

The single biggest reason for the turnaround is Chris Paul, who was acquired in a deal with the Thunder. Phoenix had a lot of talent — as evidenced by an 8-0 run in the bubble, but they needed someone to make it all gel.

If Lowry is amiable to the idea of playing for New Orleans and putting signature to a sign-and-trade (it’s hard to envision the Pelicans operating as an under-the-cap team and thus creating enough space to sign Kyle outright), Griffin will have to offer a worthwhile package to Masai Ujiri. Sending out Eric Bledsoe or Steven Adams for salary purposes and adding a prospect/draft capital feels like the avenue, but according to Matt Moore, the Raptors have no interest in Bledsoe.

Lowry will be the toughest get. Philadelphia, Miami and New Orleans are among the expected suitors for Lowry. The Pelicans would have to find a taker for Eric Bledsoe to make such a deal happen.

So, unless a third team gets added to utilize Bledsoe’s contract, perhaps Adams and the Pelicans’ 10th overall pick this season for Lowry could make up the bones of any deal. The Raptors desperately need a starting center and another high first round pick would aid Toronto in retooling their roster more quickly.

Instead of the 10th pick, I could see Masai also have an interest in acquiring Jaxson Hayes to fill the long-term void at center plus a less valuable pick(s), or maybe seek out either Kira Lewis or Nickeil-Alexander Walker if the Raptors select Scottie Barnes instead of Jalen Suggs in the upcoming NBA Draft.

The New Orleans Pelicans are eager to make the playoffs and have a lot of talented players, but it feels like they’re missing that key piece. That’s why the chance to add a veteran point guard with a highly coveted set of skills and intangibles is so alluring. It’s a rare opportunity for a small market team that hasn’t experienced good success.

It’s easy to love Kyle Lowry, the player, but admittedly, it is concerning to ponder all the costs that would be involved in facilitating a potential deal. However, possessing a hungry Zion Williamson changes the normal calculus. A big move likely needs to be made this summer and Kyle Lowry could be the answer.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.