by Josh Naso / @silverfox8008
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry wasn’t a lottery pick (24th overall in 2006). He wasn't a Rookie of the Year candidate, and he's never made an all-star team. But he very well may be the most underrated point guard — if not player — in the NBA.
The fact that he has truly blossomed since heading north of the border with the Raptors contributes to his anonymity, though Lowry has begun to grab attention from those inside the league, TV analysts and die-hard NBA fans. Still, to casual fans or those far removed from Toronto, many are still missing out on this little dynamo from Philadelphia.
As a Philadelphia native and huge Villanova fan, Lowry has been on my radar for a long time. I have followed his career closely, and the time has come for the basketball world at large to take note of what the 6’0” point guard is doing up in Toronto.
Philadelphians noticed Lowry early on, as he dominated at Cardinal Dougherty High School. In 2004, he was named Pennsylvania’s High School Player of the Year while averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. In the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic, he had 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a victory over Penn Charter. He shared tournament MVP honors with Charter’s Sean Singletary, who went on to star at Virginia and had a cup of coffee in the NBA.
Lowry decided to stay local for college and headed out to the Main Line to play for Villanova and coach Jay Wright. Villanova has developed a reputation as “Guard U” with Wright routinely playing 4 guards at a time and having excellent guard play from guys like Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Scottie Reynolds and Maalik Wayns.
Lowry jumped right in, earning Big East All-Rookie honors and Big 5 Rookie of the Year his freshman season. His sophomore season he was All Big East second team and All Big 5 first team. He helped Villanova to a Sweet 16 appearance his freshman year and an Elite 8 appearance his sophomore year, before losing to the eventual champion each time. After his sophomore season he declared for the NBA draft.
Lowry was taken 24th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. His career with the Grizzlies was nothing to write home about, as he never averaged more than 10 points or 4 assists in 3 seasons while playing 20-25 minutes a game. At the trade deadline in 2009, he was moved to the Houston Rockets.
Things got better for Lowry in Houston. His minutes started to go up, and so did his numbers. His scoring went up in each of his four seasons with the Rockets, and his assist and rebounding numbers went up as well. In 4 years in Houston, he increased his scoring average by 7, his assists average by 3 and his rebounding average by 2. More importantly, he began to show flashes of the player he could be.
Lowry started to have scoring outbursts, fantastic nights distributing the ball and very efficient games shooting the rock. With the Rockets deciding to build their team around a James Harden-Dwight Howard duo, they traded Lowry to the Raptors in the summer of 2012.
Last season, his second one in Toronto, he helped lead the Raptors to their first playoff berth since 2008. He did so while posting career highs in games, minutes and 3-point percentage. His 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds were also career bests. In just over 2 seasons with the Raptors, he has already passed Damon Stoudamire as the franchise leader in triple-doubles with four. He has six in his career so far.
This season, as the Raptors look to build off of last year’s playoff berth, Lowry continues to improve. He’s averaging 19.7 points, 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds, all improvements from last year’s career highs. He currently ranks 12th in player efficiency rating, ahead of guys like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall.
Lowry can beat you off the dribble, or he can kill you with the jumper. He can find open teammates, and he can create opportunities for them with his quickness. He has incredible rebounding ability for someone who is only 6 feet tall. And he plays with the kind of toughness and tenacity that Philadelphia guards have become known for.
He doesn’t have the pure stroke of Stephen Curry, the experience of Tony Parker, or the vision and feel of Chris Paul. But on any given night, he can hurt you in a number of different ways. And on certain nights, he can hurt you in every way all at once.
Kyle Lowry is in his 9th season, but it feels as though he is just now getting truly comfortable. At still just 28 years old, we may have yet to see the best of from the tough point guard from Philadelphia.
Both Lowry and the Raptors seem to be headed the right direction, and it should be incredibly fun to watch the player and the team continue to mature together and see how good they can ultimately be. If you haven’t started paying attention to the team up north and its undersized point guard, now is the time.
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