Some words of praise before it’s too late.

The Raptors defeated the Knicks by a score of 95-83 last night in a game in which both teams played horribly for 7 out of a possible 8 quarters.

The Knicks were down Felton, Prigioni and Melo and their absence was certainly felt. After their hot three-point shooting cooled off (10/15 at one point), their offense sputtered and the Raptors took advantage. Dwane Casey elected to trot out a crunch-time lineup of Lowry-Derozan-Salmons-Johnson-Valanciunas against the depleted Knicks roster and as you would expect, the team with Toure’ Murray and Beno Udrih at the helm didn’t fare so well. The Raptors won the fourth by outscoring their lowly counterparts by a score of 29-12 and some key three’s from Salmons really helped the Raptors pull away.

[Individual player analysis and grades in last night’s Quick Reaction post]

But let’s not talk about that. Let’s not break down the drivel that these two TANKlantic teams served for us fans last night because let’s face it, it was a whole steaming pile of crap for an entire half, if not more. The injury-depleted Knicks had to play through JR Smith and Andrea Bargnani which regrettably evoked painful memories of 2011-12, where our beloved Raptors rocked the two-headed combo of Derozan and Bargs en route to a record of 23-43 (shortened season, mercifully). And besides, if you really want to see what these two teams looked like, you can just catch tonight’s showing in Toronto. The Knicks have already confirmed that Melo will not play in tonight’s game, so you’ll be able to experience the uniquely satisfying schadenfreude of JR/Bargs for the second time in as many nights.

Instead, allow me to hijack this precious little column to espouse some appreciation for Kyle Lowry.

Way back in…earlier this month, there was some talk of a potential Lowry-to-New York trade. The Raptors reportedly demanded both a 2018 1st round draft pick and Tim Hardaway Jr in exchange for taking on Felton’s bloated contract and surrendering Lowry to a divisional opponent. Reports suggested that a deal of some sort had been worked out by the respective general managers, but mercurial Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly reneged over concerns over public perception. For now, it appears that talk has cooled between the two Atlantic rivals and Lowry remains a Raptor.

However, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise if Lowry were traded at some point this season.

First and foremost, he’s on an expiring deal and there has been little talk, if any, of a potential contract extension, therefore if Masai Ujiri believes that Lowry will leave, it would be prudent to recoup some assets for a very cheap and productive player.

Second, there’s a significant market for Lowry’s talents. It seems as if everyone who is anyone in the NBA is hurt right now, leaving playoff spots and even entire divisions open for the taking. It also helps that several wannabe contenders have sizable holes at point guard or the wing (Knicks, Nets, Golden State come to mind). If the Raptors prefer to trade his present value for future assets, there will be definitely be suitors for Lowry’s services.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room – trading away Lowry for less talent in the short term will most likely worsen the Raptors for this season, which would increase the value of the Raptors’ draft pick, or in short, it would really help the Raptors tank. Greivis Vasquez is a nice back-up point guard who is willing to run an endless slew of pick-and-rolls, but he represents a significant downgrade from Lowry, and the Raptors will be certainly worse for wear.

With so many push factors in place, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Masai Ujiri elects to retain Lowry for the duration of the season, and that’s a shame because Kyle Lowry happens to be a very good player.

Is he the perfect floor general? Of course not. The sole trait he shares with Chris Paul is, sadly, his height. He’s not a gifted passer like Rubio, he’s not a lights-out shooter like Curry, nor is he an unstoppable scorer like Irving. Rather, he’s just a very well-rounded player who is good at most things (except mid-range shooting, he’s terrible at that).

And perhaps because he lacks a salient skill, or because he’s not a savant of sorts, his play and his production gets overlooked by many, including us fans.

And that’s not to say that Lowry is exceptional by any means. His career average of 11/4/6 doesn’t exactly jump off the page. His seasonal averages of 15/4/7 don’t either, and this is, by most metrics, the best season of his career.

But let’s go back to the well-roundedness. Kyle Lowry is a very good player because he is well-rounded.

Take shooting. He’s not a great shooter, but he basically only takes two shots; spot-up three’s from either wing, or shots at the rim. He doesn’t actually make a significant percentage of these shots, by virtue of their location, is inherently efficient. Shots in the restricted area and from above-the break (wing) three’s account for nearly 71% of his total shots, allowing him to shoot at an above-average TS% of 56%. He knows where his bread is buttered, and his scoring is very valuable.

Then there’s passing. Per NBA Stats, Lowry is averaging the 6th highest number of front-court touches per game in the NBA at 78.0 per game. Off those touches, he’s averaging 71.3 passes per game, which suggests that he’s a very willing facilitator. He’s certainly no wizard with the ball the way Nash or Paul are, but he certainly knows how to set his teammates up. Since Gay’s departure, Lowry has been free to operate which has allowed him to run the pick-and-roll with his bigs and to drive-and-kick more often. Since the Gay trade, Lowry has averaged 8.1 assists per game on a very robust 31.8 assist ratio.

Then there’s rebounding, which is so often overlooked for guards. His rebounding numbers have certainly taken a dive this season, but Lowry has always been amongst the leaders in rebounding, both on offense and defense amongst point guards. Last season, Lowry ranked first amongst PG’s in total rebounding percentage (65% above average). He’s tenacious and has a nose for the ball. He’s not afraid to jump in amongst the trees to come down with boards.

He’s also a pest on defense. His on-ball defense, although sometimes superb, comes and goes, but he’s always alert and he has quick hands which have allowed him to grab around 1.7 steals per 36 minutes over the span of his career. He knows when to jump passing lanes and he’s not often caught out of position on ill-fated gambles. He’s also very adept at staying in front of his man and rotating correctly as the help defender. In last night’s game, Lowry drew two charges, which should come as no surprise considering Lowry drew the fourth most charges per game last season for players at his position.

And finally, he’s a ferocious leader who checks off many boxes in the intangibles boxscore. He clearly cares about winning and he’s a viscerally competitive player. He barks at his teammates. He barks at his coaches. He barks at the referees and he sometimes even barks at himself, but it’s all just a testament to his sheer will to win. He and Amir are always first to dive for loose balls and for better or for worse, Lowry seems to genuinely not care about getting injured. He’s just out there to win ball games any way he can, which is why it’s no surprise to see that Lowry owns the Raptors highest simple rating (a mix of PER and +/- numbers) amongst players who have played more than 5% of total available minutes.

You put that all together, and you get a very productive player. Sure, he’s not skilled to the point of salience, but he does have quite a flair for the dramatic. You’ll recall that he averaged 24/7/7 in his first three games in a Raptors uniform. You’ll recall this clutch shot against the Cavs last year. Or you could simply think back to last week where he went toe-to-toe with Russell Westbrook and poured in 22/7/9/4 to help the Raptors take down the Thunder. He’s a very productive player whose well-rounded skillset gets overshadowed by his peers in this Golden Era of point guards.

So Kyle, whenever you go, and wherever you end up, I wish you the best, and I hope you can go to a team in which the level of competence matches your level of competitiveness. You’ll always have a fan in me. Thanks for pouring in 15/4/11 against the Knicks last night and I hope you do the same tonight.

  • easy

    Well delivered well-deserved praise. Great read

  • Saskatoon Raps Fan

    Lowry is my favorite player. Will be very sad when he leaves. I hope he ends up on a team I can cheer for ( ie not the lakers or Knicks). Although I’m holding out some hope that we resign him

  • shan2on

    This article only derives more reasons to keep someone like this. Contract year or not, at the current time, his value is under appreciated among raptors fans and league analysts. He’s the type of character that will only accelerate the growth of JV on the floor solely based on how hard he plays.

    • morgan c

      I agree. For the first time, I am now beginning to think we should try to extend him. I fail to see when and where we could get an upgrade at the position. I don’t want to pay him 10+ a year, but if we can sign him for 5 years at 8-9 per (or something like that), I’d be totally down. He is getting better in a Raptors uni.

    • Beagle17

      I think we should try to keep him too, unless some team offers a heckofalot. One of the defining characteristics of good teams is that they have one or two exceedingly well-rounded players. Sometimes this well-roundedness isn’t noticed because a player is a star scoring machine or something, but it is the efficiency of players like Lowry who do everything pretty darn well that makes a team hard to beat in the long run (i.e. a playoff series).

      I highly doubt we could get a comparable replacement for Lowry, and point guard is probably the most important position on the floor for most teams when it all comes down to it – your PG is your QB. I’d rather see DeRozan traded and Lowry resigned for the same amount; I just think Lowry is ultimately more important to the team, given his defense, leadership and facilitation. DeRozan is nice, but he only affects games in one way. Lowry can help you find wins in all sorts of ways. I hope we keep them both.

  • Riverdale Rat

    Nothing personal, but the tank was never on, and is now not close to possible. Stop. Feel free to enjoy a fun basketball team that’ll win the Atlantic and has a great shot at a 3 seed.

    • ac1011990

      I don’t know if the tank was on or not but Masai did try and trade Lowry to the Knicks. That right there would pretty much mean a rebuild. This team is kept together by Lowry, he sets the tone for defensive, he tells players where to be and when and he delivers timely buckets when there struggling. We have good pieces in this team but if Lowry gets hurt or traded the rebuild better be on because a sans Lowry raptors team would not scare anyone. Masai has not given us a hint as to what he’s doing, if he trades Lowry the rebuild is on, if he pursues Deng like the rumours say he’s making a playoff push.

      • GoingBig

        I’ve seen the discussion about Deng. But usually Lowry is the piece on offer to return
        Deng is in the final year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

        • ac1011990

          Ya your right, if they were to trade Deng, which I doubt, they would want Lowry back for sure. That would not leave this team in any better condition, plus Deng minus Lowry. I don’t even think that rumour had an merit to it, I think the media just throws the raptors name in there for every rumour, where it’s true or not.

      • Hassan Mehmood Khan

        If we get deng we would definitely be the 3rd best team in the east

      • ItsAboutFun

        “but Masai did try and trade Lowry to the Knicks.”

        Did Masai “try”, or did NY try to pry Lowry away because they bought into the media driven “Raps are tanking” babble,,,,,,,, and Masai said “sure, let’s talk, but I want a deal Dolan can’t help but refuse”?

        Seems like the latter, and saying otherwise is creating yet another piece of inaccurate internet rhetoric.

        • ac1011990

          I think it was most likely Masai trying to capitalize on the Knick’s weakness, they just lost their starting point guard to injury, the backups were not playing well and they were losing. For a rental player, giving up a future first and maybe Hardaway or Shumpert, is not a wise thing to do, especially since they have very little cap space and Lowry is headed for a big pay day. Good GM’s capitalize on weaknesses of other teams, personally i think Masai initiated that one, Dolan wanted no part of that and he made a smart move for the Knicks.

          • ItsAboutFun

            So what you think, or imagine, is what you state as fact. A common malady on the internet, and it shows up here far too often. Just a suggestion, but I think it’s healthier to recognize how wise it is to know what we don’t know.

            • ac1011990

              You don’t know the truth neither do I. We go by what we hear, none of us have a clue as to whats actually going on. I’m going by what multiple sources have told us, that there was talks going on between raptors and Knicks in regards to Lowry. Masai didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Bargnani and Gay, if a deal that benefits the raptors comes up you can bet that hel trade him in a heartbeat. Masai is not Colangelo, he does not have any emotionally attachment to this team, if it benefits the raptors hel trade whoever he needs to. Fact is Lowry is a free agent who’s going to get a significant pay raise, I’m guessing he’s going to be traded for assets sooner or later to avoid getting nothing.

              If you don’t like my opinions or what I say don’t reply back, I could care less. These sites are meant to express your thoughts or feelings. Your comments are just as useless as everyone else’s. Every word you write contributes to the inaccurate Internet rhetoric you speak of, unless you have some knowledge or sources the rest of us don’t.

    • Hassan Mehmood Khan

      if the raptors can win the Atlantic they should do it .

      • ac1011990

        Not winning the Atlantic seems harder at this point then actually winning it. Winning the Atlantic this year is nothing to be proud of, especially if we end up with a sub .500 record.

  • Kyle

    Raptors should really try and keep him. If this is a rebuild, we’ll need a pg at some point, and really who else is gonna be available? I don’t see the raptors signing a guard better than Lowry in the off season. If the Raptors continue to be competitive, I think Lowry WOULD stay, he just needs the offer presented to him

    • webfeat

      Exum? Jus’ sayin’ one might be available in the draft…

  • jjdynomite

    Nice ode Will Lou but you’re being presumptuous in suggesting that since there’s been “little talk of a contract extension” = Lowry’s out the door. Based on the numerous clothes-rending articles prior to the Gay trade that his contract was immovable and the Raps were doomed to iso-ball hell, why not give Masai the benefit of the doubt that he’ll either resign Lowry or trade him for *better* pieces than 160kg Fatty Felton for the next 2.5 years and a pick in 2029?

    Here’s some additional points:

    Fact #1: Lowry turns 28 in March, ostensibly still in his prime the next 4+ years (not 38 “cough” Nash “cough”)
    Fact #2: Lowry has played best when he’s the unquestionable starting PG, like most strong-willed players would. This is his first full season he is that.
    Fact #3: Lowry is PG #11 on’s rolling player rater this season, better than such luminaries as Lawson, Conley and Parker.

    Why shouldn’t Masai re-up him again?

    • DDayLewis

      Thanks for reading! I didn’t really give an opinion as to whether Lowry should be extended or let go. I’m just giving a big-picture view of the Lowry situation. I’d certainly be in favor of extending Lowry at the right price (something like 24M/3 years).

    • ckh26

      OH yeah.. trading for the Felton who didn’t see a cheeseburger and fries he didn’t like is not what this org needs to look at. Thankfully we put a stake in the heart of the guy who wanted to buy a 38 year old injury prone icon.

      Kyle is playing for his contract and playing damn well. He deserves to get paid. Will it be by us ? Might be.

      What is he worth vs want for term and money ? Market comparables are Jennings and Teague last year. in his age bracket. Thats either 3 years at 24 or 4 years at 32. Calderon got 4 years for 30M….Think Kyle would take 4 years at 33-35M . Would you do it ?

      • kameko

        kyle can’t take 4 years. cba rules maxes it at 3.

    • truth be told

      He would be at the peak of his career at a time you are trying to rebuild your team. If your team is capped out and Lowry and Derozan are your best players, sustaining winning is next to impossible.

      Yes, the Raps are in first place, but they play in a weak division. They are under .500. No one should mistake this team for an upcoming young team. They are currently the best of a very bad lot.

      He would fetch a multi year deal that would probably put the team back up against the luxury tax with no ability to get better players or make many moves to improve the team going forward.

      He is in a contract year with a history of injuries. While he has played phenomenal this year, resigning him would be more of the same type of move we’ve seen the past regime make.

      • jjdynomite

        truth be told, what is the math you’re using? The Raps have ~$25 million in cap room thanks to Masai jettisoning Gay and Bustnani. Lowry, at best, would add $4 million to his current ~$6 million salary. So re-upping Lowry at $9-$10 million for 3-4 years will not, objectively, put the team “back up against the luxury tax” and prevent Masai from going after another impact player in 2014.

  • KuH

    For what it’s worth, Kyle Lowry is the #4 point guard in the league according to wins produced (a stat that aggregates many of the metrics you mention: shooting efficiency/passing/rebounding/steals/etc).

    The WP ranking is Chris Paul #1 by a long shot, Stephen Curry a clear #2, then Pablo Prignioni, Kyle Lowry and Ricky Rubio in that order.

    • DDayLewis

      WP is a great model and it should be mentioned along with the likes of PER and WS, but there are some pretty wonky coefficients in that model. Rebounding tends to be heavily overvalued and turnovers are heavily scrutinized. Those just happen to be two areas in which Lowry excels.

    • mountio

      i was with you …. until pablo and rubio (currently having a historically bad year). KL playing very well, but not sure WP is the best way to show it (see billyLous explanation below)

      • KuH

        For what it’s worth, Rubio is dramatically better than Lowry on assists (12 vs 9), rebounds (7 vs 5) and steals (4 vs 2) but is a much less efficient shooter; Pablo has the best shooting percentage and lowest turnovers. Kyle shoots (and scores) dramatically more than either. Otherwise he statistically sits between them on everything.

        A cluster of PGs the next step down are led by Jose Calderon (who is shooting 49% from 3 this year) and Eric Bledsoe (very similar to Lowry statistically but with 5 turnovers vs. 3 turnovers).

        So while WP may, e.g., overweight rebounds, it may not matter much in this case.

        Maybe it’s best put this way: Kyle Lowry is Eric Bledsoe with 6 fewer 2s attempted, 3 more 3s attempted, and 2 less turnovers per 48 minutes. That sounds like one of the best PGs in the league to me!

        • mountio

          Not doubting that Lowry is having a great year – I agree with that for sure. Just that WP is the best measure of a PG. PER, while not perfect, seems to be a much better one – where guys like Westbrook, Parker, Wall, Lillard, Lawson, Irving, and Conley (who all I would say are clearly better than KL) to name a few rank higher than Lowry ((15th) for PGs) and WAY higher than Rubio (30th) and Pablo (40th)

  • Do-Gooder

    Do the Raptors have one of the best Starting Fives in the East?

    • DDayLewis

      Now that Horford and Lopez are out? Probably. I’d say the current Raptors starting five is the 4th best in the conference (MIA, IND, CHI).

  • GoRaps

    Tanking is an even harder pill to swallow now. All of a sudden the Raps seem to have some really good pieces, Lowry in particular. The fact that they’re all busting their butts off makes this an even harder team to pull apart.

    • #TankNation

      I agree, I especially empathize with guys like Amir, DeMar, and Kyle Lowry, who give their all to this team, never complain, and just want to win. So seeing them have the chance to carve out a spot in this year’s playoffs is great to see on the one hand, but at the same time, looking at it from the team’s perspective, tanking is in our best interests.

  • ac1011990

    I’d love to keep Lowry. If there was a way to keep him and rebuild that would be great. Right now I think Lowry is the piece that keeps this team going, with him around you won’t be able to go through a proper rebuild. Hopefully he does get traded because I can’t see both of those things work out at the same time and he deserves to be on a team that has a real shot at winning.

  • onemanweave

    Good read. Good job.

  • GoingBig

    “In last night’s game, Lowry drew two charges”

    That was awesome. Literally bounced two Knicks out of the game for a quarter.

  • Al Asifyouknow

    Lowry is great but his defense is not above the rest, his average and assist totals are 14 and 9 that is what Vaz does, so I don’t see much of a down grade in stats, Lowry is no Paul or Westbrook my friend.
    He actually, at times, reminds of Thomas from the Kings, he tends to make silly decisions in crunch time.
    I trade him and get Hardaway jr and some picks. Still the best dump in the last few years, Rudy Gay to Sacramento.
    Toronto’s GM is a genius, he dumped Carmelo on New York (played them) that is why the Knicks wont deal with this trade, they don’t want to get played again.
    GM’s are not usually the superstars of the NBA but Toronto got a PLAYAA GM…lol..Love that guy…lol.

    • Chewwy

      The fact that Lowry is one of the best in taking charges, is a key factor. This is him playing great defence at times. One thing I notice is that yes, he makes some bad decisions but I will see him hustle down court and take a charge right after the turnover. I watched Hardaway do some stupid things last night and right now I feel that Lowry would be the better option to keep. I will tell you this. James Dolan will regret nixing that trade.

      • Al Asifyouknow

        Remember Hardaway JR is just a kid….if they are not going to pay Lowry they might as well do something.
        I’m surprised that as well as he been playing they don’t at least try to talk about a deal.
        Maybe they are and we don’t know about it. He would be a good keep for any team at the right price…

    • kameko

      vasquez isn’t even close to lowry. it would be an utter disaster if he were to take the helm as starting PG. horribly streaky shooter and so far hasn’t done much at all in this successful stretch of games. he had ONE assist tonight against the knicks. thats just pathetic.

  • A G

    I don’t know if it’s you (it probably is) or RR writers in general’ve used “schadenfreude” too frequently now, it’s starting to seem weird.

    • DDayLewis

      It’s just me, and I mostly use it to describe my feelings towards Bargs

  • Oaktown

    I think you have to trade Lowry. It allows them to tank without getting rid of all their players. Without him, they would lose all these games. This way they can keep Derozan and Amir. I believe Lowry is in great shape and motivated to perform as it is his contract year.

  • Age

    If tanking is off table, mind as well make a serious run for 2nd round of playoffs, and we will need Lowry for that to be successful. Who knows, if we are successful by reaching 2nd round, why wouldnt lowry consider staying? Free agents want to go get paid and go to a competitive team, the raps would have both available.

  • MalcomX

    Since my favourite NBA team is the Pistons the last year they won it all, I love a team with chemistry. No superstars, just regular everyday stars. With five starters averaging 17+ PERs and three bench players above 15 PER then you can get to the semis in the East – as long as you’ve got unselfishness too. Will that win an NBA championship? Nope. Will it be fun? Yup.

    • Roarque

      Chauncey, Tayshaun, Rip, and the Wallace brothers – any superstars there?

      • Danny Tam

        Not really, IMO. Just players very good at doing very specific things playing into a system.

  • Feather Ruffler

    I think if a trade is out there involving Lowry which benefits the Raptors going forward – you make it. As much as I love the way the team is playing (last nights first half notwithstanding), and as impressed as I am with everything Lowry has been doing and want to see playoff basketball in Toronto, if there’s any doubt about his willingness to sign an extension you have to pull the trigger. We’ve lost a lot of talent in the past for peanuts because a GM has moved too late and I don’t want to see that happen again. I am absolute in my distaste for tanking; it’s a cowards answer. But successful organizations know when to make the smart trade at the right time. That being said I really hope he resigns with us, I love the relationship he seems to have with JV and the fire he plays with. GO RAPS!

  • consmap

    If he gets traded, we certainly won’t be booing him when he returns to the ACC.

  • Maputo88

    Slow down everybody. KL is the same player Kevin McHale and Lionel Hollins couldn’t wait to get rid of because he was so difficult to deal with. Casey had the same issues last year. KL is in a contract year and is playing really well, but he seems to be the kind of guy that once he has guaranteed money may just decide he is good. Think about it – if you were guaranteed $10 million for the next four years, are you not going to play like your’e the “cock of the walk”? Given last night’s game (4 “A”s from Rapid Reax in such a crappy game???) and all of December, I would rather see him be offered a contract with very significant incentives built in – then we might see this kind of Kyle Lowry over the next few years.
    Remember the 4th quarter last night when JV was WIIIDE open twice in a row and no ball came his way. And this is PG play we absolutely adore??

    • jjdynomite

      Come again, Maputo88?

      /get off the bandwagon

      Ode to Kyle Lowry Indeed.

  • thatpeterguy

    Lowry could absolutely fit into our long term plans. You do not need All-Stars at every position to win a championship.

    • #TankNation


      • thatpeterguy

        My learning disabilities have nothing to do with Lowry being capable of running the point. And close your mouth when you breathe.

  • Bears

    I’m not familiar with league rules on this but can you extend a player then trade him before the trade deadline?

  • Lyall

    I just read this now after the second home and home. See this is what we need; people to write good things about players and good things will come back!

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