Ever since his best friend Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings, Kyle Lowry has managed to become one of the best point guards in the NBA. The Raptors have become a very unselfish team, scoring at a better clip per game, have become more efficient in their scoring, and have become one of the better defensive teams in basketball right now as well.
Lowry is taking a team that isn’t the most talented team in the league, and has made them into the third best team in the Eastern Conference, and well on their way to not only a playoff berth, but the third seed as well.
First off, let us look at the Raptors while Rudy was still on the team. This team was a paltry 6-12, did not share the ball well, in fact they were last place in assists per game, and the shooting percentages were just plain awful.
Now, Gay is not a “bad” player by any means, but he was not the right fit for Toronto, and didn’t gel with the pieces in place, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and of course, Lowry.
Lowry was at the top of his game last year when he was the alpha dog, leading the charge at the beginning of the year when the Raptors were playing their best basketball. After that, he got hurt, then Gay was brought in, and he did not recover.
However, ever since Gay left, Lowry’s game has skyrocketed him to the top of the point guard charts.
One of my favorite indicators of strong point guard play is turnovers. The Raptors were not a total mess when it came to turnovers, but Kyle Lowry has managed to make them even better, posting his lowest turnover numbers as an NBA starter at 2.2 per game, while also playing the most minutes in his career. That 2.2 mark is among the very best in the category of point guards.
In addition, his assist to turnover ratio is easily the highest it has been in his career, averaging a 3.39/1 mark, good for third in the league among point guards, behind his old running mate in Jose Calderon, and Chris Paul, two of the best passers in the league. Taking care of the ball over means more opportunities and a more efficient offense.
Speaking of his assists, those also happen to be at career high levels as well. At 7.5 assists per game, Lowry, primarily a “scoring” point guard, is right now ninth in the league, behind such greats as Paul, Stephen Curry, Jeff Teague, John Wall and Ty Lawson. This average has jumped even higher after Gay left, soaring to 8.4.
Moreover, even with increased time handling the ball, his turnover average has only risen to 2.5, still a phenomenal mark among all guards.
Lowry has managed to evolve past just being a score first point guard, and has become a great distributor as well, while also taking fantastic care of the ball.
With Lowry becoming a great distributor this year, it would be understandable considering he is doing a great job getting his teammates involved. However, his scoring has not been effected. In fact, Lowry is a better and more efficient scorer than ever this year.
Just looking at the simple stats, his 15.9 points per game are a career high. However, looking past that, it is not because he is looking to score more, we have already seen that he is actually looking to pass more, but it is because he has become a far more efficient player.
His field goal percentage, a mark of 42.9%, is good enough for his third best mark as a player, and easily his best as a full-time starter.
He has also managed to become a better scorer, without increasing his shot attempts by very much. He’s actually averaging only one more shot per game than the year in which he previously had a career high, but is averaging a full 1.6 more points per game off of it.
His three point shooting is at an all-time best, while also shooting and making more than he is ever shot. This ability to make defenders really guard him at the three-point line makes it easier for him to create space on the floor. This has made his Effective Field Goal Percentage (a combination of two point shots and three point shots, with three pointers weighted slightly more) at 52.5%, and you guessed it, a career high mark. He is ahead of guys like Paul, and Mike Conley, and right there with guys like Wall, Curry, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard, all who would be consider top 10 point guards.
At 120 points scored per 100 possessions, he has to be considered one of the best point guards in the league when it comes to simply creating points.
His defense this year has been quite spectacular, and while the Raptors defense in general has been very good, fifth in the league in points against, Lowry has been the man spearheading this defense, with his relentless effort against opposing point guards, making life hell on them.
Lowry’s defensive rating (Points allowed per 100 possessions) is at just 103. Paul, Russell Westbrook in his limited time, Curry and Ricky Rubio, only better this mark.
It is clear that Kyle Lowry has become one of the best point guards in basketball, and his all around great play proves this. He is getting career high marks in turnovers, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, shooting percentage as a starter, three point percentage, all while playing top notch defense.
The Raptors are notably better with him leading the charge, 11-5 without Gay, and those include games against the Spurs, Thunder, Heat and Pacers, arguably the four best teams in basketball.
His pitbull mentality has also managed to catch on with his teammates, as they go up against these very good teams without any fear, and play their butts off.
They have been in every game with Lowry at the helm, and even beat two of those teams. He does not necessarily get the most attention playing in Toronto, but Lowry’s level of play has been nearly elite this year, and his all-star play is the reason the Raptors are playing their best ball in years.