Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Kyle Lowry is the perfect man to carry the Toronto Raptors. Who better than an overlooked player to be the franchise of arguably the NBA’s most forgotten franchise?
But out of those ashes of obscurity, Lowry and the Raptors have risen to become an elite player and team:
Lowry has already moved to fourth all-time in Win Shares for the franchise, and if he matches last year’s performance, he could challenge Vince Carter for second by the end of this year. Depending on what he does after he opts out of his contract next summer, he could surpass Bosh as the all-time leader. More importantly, he’s led the team to its first Eastern Conference Finals. Can he push it further?
One of my favorite stats about Lowry pertains to his rebounding numbers. He averages 6.9 boards per 100 possessions, which is more than any player in history who is 6’0″ or shorter. That’s a full half-rebound more than Chris Paul, who is second all-time. It’s just such a Lowry thing to do. His tenacity and ability to overachieve are what makes him so special. He was taken with the 24th pick in the 2006 draft, and only Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge have more Win Shares than him from that draft. Both players are behind Lowry in my rankings.
Who better to lead The North? The city with a chip on its shoulder needs a player with a chip on his shoulder to bring them into contention for a ‘chip. If he can lead the Raptors over the defending champion Cavaliers and get the team to the Finals, Lowry will be regarded as a top-five player.
There isn’t much chance that Lowry falls in the rankings. He’s been posting 19.0 points, 6.9 assists, 4.7 boards and 1.7 steals a contest over the last three years, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do it again this year. He’s only missed 20 games, so injuries aren’t a major concern.
The only thing that would cause Lowry to slip a bit is if someone behind him makes a jump. As impressive as he’s been, it’s hard to see him making a statistical jump. If Toronto has plateaued as a team, that becomes a realistic possibility.
Lowry is a very solid pick-and-roll point guard. He scored .86 points per possession when he was the ball handler, good for the 73.8 percentile, per Synergy stats at NBA.com. He also requited himself quite well in isolation, recording .93 PPP, good for the 76.3 percentile.
In total, Lowry also dropped 494 dimes last year. He’s one of the best shot creators in the business, and shot creating is the most important skill.
To do that essentially requires three things: make shots off the bounce, make them efficiently and be able to distribute. (Some players create only for themselves, which doesn’t help the team as much).
Based on numbers from Basketball-Reference.com, only five players made 500 field goals, shot an effective field goal percentage over 50 percent, created more than half their shots and had more than 400 assists. The other four: Chris Paul, James Harden, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. That is pretty special company.
Lowry also had the third-best Defensive Real Plus-Minus (1.70) among point guards, which is just what you would expect from “Captain Tenacity.” He was the closest defender on 10.7 shots per game and held opponents to 0.2 percent below their season average, but that’s a bit deceptive because he lacked interior help. Opponents shot 8.2 percent better within six feet of the basket, and that accounted for a quarter of his defenses. That’s a bit unfair when you’re a mere 6’0″
From greater than 15 feet, opponents were 1.7 percent worse, and 2.6 worse when they were shooting from deep. Lowry is an exceptional perimeter defender, and it would be silly to grade him by his rim protection.