Despite career-high averages across the board in his first full season as a starter and a 16-11 record for the overachieving team he commanders, Houston Rockets’ point guard Kyle Lowry was egregiously left off the Western Conference All-Star reserves list when it was announced last Thursday.
The snub was expected — the final point guard spot was widely speculated to accommodate either Lowry or the more widely known Tony Parker — but still unfair considering the valuable role Lowry plays for his team. It appears as if the Rockets are paying reparations for all the seasons Yao Ming set All-Star voting records, as the superstar-less representatives of Clutch City have failed to produce an All-Star for the third straight year. ESPN’s pundits even voted Lowry the biggest snub of 2012.
The stats support that assertion, as Lowry averages nearly 15 points, six rebounds, and eights assists per contest in 2011-12, while shooting a wildly-improved 37 percent from behind the arc. Those numbers aren’t merely comparable to Parker’s, but also vastly better in some areas: Lowry shoots 13 percentage points higher from three, and averages over four rebounds more per game than the elusive Frenchman. Parker scores more points, but the San Antonio Spurs rely on a heavier slice of his offensive production than the Rockets require from Lowry, who looks to pass instead of shoot first. Lowry also possesses a triple-double on his 2012 resume, proof of his all-around proficiency, and threatens one seemingly every night.
The strongest argument for Lowry’s candidacy lies in his supporting cast, and his team’s surprising success. Lowry has taken a hodgepodge batch of role players and youngsters to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets are currently on a three-game road winning streak over the Nuggets, Blazers, and Suns. No players exists in the NBA who is more valuable to his team’s win/loss record, and Lowry knows that; Houston lost the two games he missed due to injury, and Lowry has battled through a hyperextended elbow to lead the Rockets in the past week.
Statistics should not limit Lowry’s value, either. He makes innumerable hustle and leadership plays that cannot be measured in a box score. For example, as Houston clung to a late three-point lead over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, Lowry stole a Marcin Gortat pass and charged down the court for the game-sealing layup. He gathers his team in crucial late-game huddles, and is the first player to congratulate his mates after a positive play. He plays physical defense, fearlessly fires clutch threes, and gives 100 percent effort each night no matter the opponent. Lowry does all this without the benefit of the referee’s whistle, as his reckless, bumper car-inspired style of play has failed to yield much sympathy from zebras who may not like his apparent conduct toward a female official in a summer pick-up game.
Lowry knows Houston isn’t stacked with talent like other current dwellers of the NBA postseason mix, and his example shows the Rockets the kind of effort they need to exert nightly if they want to scrap and compete their way to a playoff bid. So not only do the statistics support Lowry’s claim to All-Star glory, but the way he has lifted an otherwise lottery-bound team sure to be mired in tanking talk to an upper-level playoff seat in the uber-competitive West should have sealed the deal. It did not. Even notorious player-swapper Daryl Morey, Houston’s G.M., refuses to trade Lowry for a long sought-after superstar like Pau Gasol.
At the very least, Lowry’s name should be in serious discussion for the Most Improved Player award this year.