SLAM Top 50: Kyle Lowry, No. 26

On July 2, 2014, Kyle Lowry re-signed with the Raptors on a 4-year, $48 million extension. Though the dust had hardly settled on the offseason’s free agency period, re-upping with Toronto made plenty of sense for Lowry. After finding his footing with the Grizzlies for two and a half seasons, and earning a starting role in Houston, Lowry had finally emerged as a premium talent with the Raptors. Lowry’s Top 50 rankings are indicative of his history as a late-bloomer. Despite not cracking the list through his first five seasons, the Philly native has been a mainstay since 2014.

A former Villanova Wildcat, Lowry helped lead Toronto to the 2013-14 postseason; the franchise’s first playoff berth in seven years. As a clubhouse leader and burgeoning star, Lowry was ready to lead his teammates to the next level.

“As a competitor, as a professional, I relish the fact that I get to say that ‘it’s my team’, I’m the leader of the team,” Lowry said during the team’s official announcement. “I wanted to be in a place I could win and grow.”

As the 2017-18 season nears, Lowry is in a similar position. As he did in 2014, Lowry inked an extension as soon as the offseason began; signing on for three more years in Toronto and, in effect, keeping Dwane Casey’s starting unit completely intact. Lowry, the team’s offensive catalyst, will be flanked by potent weapons DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka (also signed to a 3-year deal over the offseason).

The past three years have been fruitful for Lowry, boosting both his own stock and the team’s. With Lowry signed to a team-friendly deal, the Raptors went a combined 156-90 from 2014-on, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. On the heels of a career-high 6.82 Real Plus-Minus through the regular season, Lowry showed flashes of brilliance through the 2015-16 playoffs. Kyle’s 23.4 PPG were the difference in helping Toronto bounce Miami in the Semis, and the three-time All-Star averaged 20.2 points against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dogged by an ankle injury, Lowry was unable to make his presence felt in last year’s postseason, sitting out Games 3 and 4 of a disappointing semifinals loss to Cleveland. Lowry, who will turn 32 this season, has embraced his role as team leader while finding a long-term home in Toronto. Following his extension, the 12th-year floor general expounded on his career goals through a letter in The Players’ Tribune.

“As exciting as it’s been around here — I don’t think we’ve reached our true potential,” Lowry explained. “[My heart] is telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later.”

The Raptors will face an uphill battle to surpass the Celtics and Cavs, but Lowry—having doubled down on his commitment to Toronto—appears up for the challenge.

Previous Rankings
2016: No. 21
2015: No. 37
2014: No. 34
2013: Not Ranked

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside
No. 36 — Andrew Wiggins
No. 35 — Marc Gasol
No. 34 –  DeAndre Jordan
No. 33 — Bradley Beal
No. 32 — Kemba Walker
No. 31 — CJ McCollum
No. 30 — Devin Booker
No. 29 — Nikola Jokic
No. 28 — Joel Embiid
No. 27 — Mike Conley