Underrated and overlooked were synonymous with Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. The opportune word is “were,” as Lowry has shed those labels by establishing himself as one of the elite point guards in the NBA. But don’t think he’ll settle after signing a four-year, $48 million contract this summer. Cracking the #SLAMTop50 for the first time in his eight-year career is just the start of what promises to be a big 2014-15 campaign for Lowry.
As Lowry told Yahoo back in March, he finally has found solid footing in the League: “My first couple years in the NBA, my fear was that I was going to go to the D-League—and maybe never get back to the NBA. You get a few chances, and then you’re done. Then you’re just a label, never to be a frontline guy. I did not want to be a backup in this League. I wasn’t going to settle for it, and I think it rubbed people the wrong way. I wanted the label of a guy who’s a winner. That’s the most important label you can have in this League.”
When you’re able to shake off unending trade rumors and questions about your ability to propel your team into the Playoffs, it’s pretty safe to say that Lowry is now seen as a winner. With fresh contracts from the Raptors and adidas, Lowry understands that these rewards are based on his team’s success. As he told SLAM this past summer, “This is a team game, and if you help your team do good, you get a chance to do good individually by joining people on good teams. My personal goal and our team goal is becoming the best we can possibly be.”
Lowry will have plenty of motivation this season as he can use his snubs from last year’s All-Star and All-NBA teams to push him. Although these are all individual goals, Lowry’s selfless play and leadership is what inspires his teammates. There is no drama coming from Lowry in Toronto. He is all business and his teammates follow his lead.
Reserve guard, Greivis Vasquez, explained to Grantland, why the Raptors look up to Lowry: “He’s always the first guy in the locker room and the last guy out. That’s professionalism. When I have my own team to run someday, I’m going to have flashbacks to all the winning plays he made here.”
Lowry is a jack of all trades for the Raptors, as he led Toronto to its first post-season appearance since 2008 and a franchise-record 48 victories, while averaging career-highs in points (17.9 ppg), assists (7.4 apg) and three-point percentage (38.3 percent). Lowry also learned to not gamble for steals on defense, consequently finishing among the League leaders in charges drawn.
This was all a long time coming for everyone who has known Lowry. As the since retired NBA great Chauncey Billups said last year, “Kyle has the perfect combination. And now he’s sharpened it.”
This all-around game is what makes Lowry one of the best guards in the League, as reserve Raptors forward Patrick Patterson explained to SBNation last season, “He always accepts the challenge and he’s just an active motor out there. He doesn’t stop, he never gets tired, he’s always trying to do the right thing for everybody and, most importantly, he can score. So you have to respect his scoring ability but also his ability to pass the ball.”
As great as Lowry’s season was last year, it ended in disappointing fashion. Not only did the Raptors lose in the closing seconds of a Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets, the game ended with Nets forward, Paul Pierce, blocking Lowry on a potential game-winning shot.
If the Raptors could do it again, they would make a similar play call as Lowry is their guy. “We need an answer, we call Kyle Lowry,” reserve center Chuck Hayes said last season. “Kyle will figure it out.”
Hayes is right. If Lowry’s career has shown us anything, it’s that he will figure it out. He figured out how to comfortably sit among the game’s Top 50 players—what else will he figure out in the 2014-15 NBA season?
|#SLAMTop50 Players 2014|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’14-15—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.