Last night, for the second year in a row, DeMar DeRozan was announced as an All-Star starter. He’s been phenomenal this year in how he’s maintained and even improved his scoring ability from years past while also incorporating more passing and creating for others into his game. The Raptors have had to deal with several injuries thus far in the season, and inconsistent performances from different guys, and DeMar has been their rock.
He absolutely deserves this honor that he’s received, and it’ll be great to see him in the All-Star game, but he’s there, so let’s talk about the other guy, his backcourt partner, Kyle Lowry. Lowry, like DeRozan has been in the game for the three of the past four seasons. This year, however, while DeMar has flourished in the new Raptors offense, Lowry hasn’t had the same level of success, with his scoring numbers down and his shooting percentages dipping slightly.
He started off the season on a rough stretch, shooting 34.6% from the field and 33.3% from three in October before going off in November to the tune of 49.7% from the field, and 45.1% from long distance. Still, the scoring numbers just haven’t hit the outbursts of years past. His defense also has slipped, which has been punctuated by the outstanding play of his backup, Delon Wright, of late. But we’re supposed to be making the case for Lowry as an All-Star here, not against it, so let’s move on.
With the new Raptors offense, to create more shots for other players, someone was going to have to sacrifice shots and usage. With DeRozan’s efficiency on the rise, it just wouldn’t have made sense for him to be that guy. DeMar is at his best when the defense has to constantly react to his relentless attacks, and he’s not as much of an off-ball threat as Lowry is, given Kyle’s ability to hit shots from outside. His willingness to take that lesser role in the offense has resulted in him at times looking passive, but more often than not has allowed other guys to benefit without necessarily making it harder, because the defense still has to account for his shooting.
At the same time, the Raptors’ starting lineup showed early in the season that they struggled with rebounding at times, and Lowry has adjusted his game to pick up some of the slack there, with his 10.5% total rebounding rate being the highest he’s had since his rookie season, and a large improvement from his past seasons with Toronto. He’s also maintained his assist rate at 29.8% this year, a miniscule dip from the 29.9% from the past two seasons. And while he has had defensive lapses, he still leads the league by a large margin in charges drawn, while also leading the team in deflections and being tied with Pascal Siakam in loose balls recovered, and having the most screen assists of any Raptors player aside from the big men. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched Kyle in recent seasons that he’s been very good at doing the little things to help the Raptors win.
Perhaps the strongest case for Lowry as an All-Star though is a statistical one, through looking at where he ranks in advanced statistics. By Player-Impact Plus Minus, he ranks 20th in the league, by RPM 17th(and 11th in RPM wins). By impact stats, he’s been a huge factor for one of the best teams in the league, as the Raptors have placed themselves among the elite this season. The All-Star game should reward the players who have been most important to the NBA in that season, and it would be hard to argue that Lowry hasn’t been one of those guys.
Maybe he’s not quite the same guy as he’s been in years past, and you could even make the case that taking the weekend off might be good for his health after the recent fall he took against the Brooklyn Nets, but Lowry is in his 30s, and All-Star games can matter for the legacy of a player. For all of those reasons, Lowry should join his backcourt partner in Los Angeles in February.