In case you missed it, we're doing a countdown of the best individual seasons in Raptors history. So far, we've taken a look at the pros and cons of win shares as a measurement, took a deep dive into Chris Bosh's 2007-08 season at number five, and admired Jose Calderon's extremely efficient and often overlooked campaign from the same year at number four. Today, we look at the third best individual season in team history without having to go too far back in time.
Here’s a good reason to be excited for the 20th anniversary season of your Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry put up the third best individual win share total in team history last year with 11.7 and he signed on this summer to try and top that at least four more times.
That 11.7 mark also placed him eighth on the NBA win share leaderboard last season, trailing only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul. Lowry never made the Eastern Conference All-Star Team last season, nor did he make the cut for any of the All-NBA teams, but seeing him finish among that group of the league’s absolute elite in win shares certainly reinforces the belief that he was snubbed on both accounts.
Joe Johnson over Kyle Lowry is a complete joke.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 31, 2014
Regardless of which accolades are or are not attached to it, Lowry’s 2013-14 campaign was a career year for the Philadelphia native. His averages of 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game all represented personal bests. Also, his combined 42.3 percent shooting from the field, 38 percent from long range, and 81.3 percent from the free throw line resulted in a 56.7 true shooting percentage, the most efficient mark of his career. The team finished a franchise best 48-34 with Lowry at the helm, winning their second division title and making the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Of course, Lowry’s path to his breakout season and leadership role with the Raptors wasn’t always a clear one. He was mostly deployed as a backup point guard during his stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets, before Houston traded him to Toronto for a draft pick during the summer of 2012. He was projected to start for the Raptors at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, but a variety of ticky-tack injuries and conditioning concerns led to Lowry being used in what was basically a time share with long-time Raptor Jose Calderon that year.
Then, two blockbuster trades happened between the middle of the 2012-13 season and the early part of the 2013-14 campaign, with Rudy Gay both coming to and going from Toronto in the span of less than a year. Both moves shook up the roster considerably and questions about where the team should turn for leadership and an identity were looming large. It may have been DeMar DeRozan who emerged as the team’s leading scorer and de facto All-Star, but it was Lowry who set the tone for the team’s identity.
DeRozan had this to say about Lowry shortly after that critical trade juncture (via TSN’s Josh Lewenberg):
"Look at the stat sheet after he plays. Any given night he gives you 16 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, somewhere around that margin every game. That's just what he [does]. He goes out there and plays hard, he's scrappy, he's a bulldog when he's out there on that court. He's definitely a leader, he definitely wants to win, I see it in his eyes."
That scrappy bulldog mentality is what fueled the Raptors to turn a disappointing 6-12 start to the 2013-14 season into a division-winning finish, going 42-22 after Gay was dealt to the Sacramento Kings. For an idea of just how important Lowry was to the turnaround, just look at his pre- and post-trade splits.
|Kyle Lowry '13-'14||Games||Usage||Points||FG%||3P%||FT%||Rebounds||Assists|
The five percent bump in usage rate really tells the whole story, as Lowry was given more responsibility on the offensive end and he responded with inspired play on both ends of the floor. He finished the season ranked seventh in the league in assists per game, perfectly striking the balance between the point guard responsibilities of scoring and distributing. The 190 three-pointers he nailed also ranked him eighth in the Association and set the Raptors franchise record in the process. He really did it all.
Lowry is only 28 years old and with a new four-year deal, he is locked in to play out the rest of his prime years in a Raptors uniform. He just finished having the third best statistical season in franchise history according to win shares, but he could very well place even higher on this list by the time all is said and done.
To reminisce a bit more about Lowry’s fantastic 2013-14 season, check out the highlight compilation below and let me know what you think in the comments section.