There’s no denying that there’s been several key factors that have equally contributed to the emergence of the Toronto Raptors as playoff contenders this season. But aside from DeMar DeRozan‘s development and the December deal that landed the franchise a trio of useful reserves in exchange for Rudy Gay, the play of Kyle Lowry is at the top of the list.
More than the impressive per-game averages that should have, and almost did earn him a trip to the Big Easy for All-Star weekend however, is the fact that Lowry has answered the call when Toronto has needed him most, and on most nights, without his contributions, the Raptors wouldn’t be where they are today.
Despite an underwhelming start to his NBA career, Lowry showed enough potential to remain in the rotation during his first four years in the league, but never totalled more than 9.6 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.6 RPG. But after a breakout season in 2010-11 that began Lowry’s progression into the player that currently holds down the point for Toronto, the former college standout saw an increase in floor time that resulted in noteworthy averages of 13.5 PPG, 6.7 APG and 4.1 RPG.
In his first year as a Raptor, Lowry played in 68 games, 52 of which he started. But despite periodic flashes of brilliance that hinted at something more, the he was not statistically much better than average, and it looked like the 11.6 PPG, 6.4 APG and 4.7 RPG he contributed was as productive as he was going to be.
As we now know, Lowry is the type of player who not only recognizes how to sustain great team chemistry, but thrives as a leader and unselfish distributor within it. And compared to his career numbers, Toronto’s relentless floor general has increased his offensive production this season by more than six points, two assists and one rebound per game.
Aside from the 17.5 PPG, 7.7 APG and 4.8 RPG that Lowry has averaged throughout the season, he’s been the definition of clutch down the stretch for the Raptors as evidenced in the 20.1 PPG he’s registered in March, added to the fact that he’s now scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 14 games.
Now in his seventh year, the proud product of Philadelphia is on the floor an average of 36.5 minutes a night for Toronto, and like all veterans, Lowry’s body is in desperate need of a rest before the beginning of the playoffs. With only 10 games remaining and a capable backup in Greivis Vasquez available, the Raptors will need to focus on giving Lowry some time on the pine.
Going forward, Lowry is just as important as DeRozan is to the long-term success of this team, and within reason, ensuring that he’s only on the floor late in the game when it’s absolutely necessary could be as crucial for the Raptors as holding onto the third seed in the Eastern Conference has become.