As Kyle Lowry's career has unfolded over the years, it's hard not to notice the steady incline; every season, there's an improvement. Now in his fourth season in Toronto, Lowry is posting the best numbers of his career--22.2 points, 6.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 42 percent from three--while powering the Raptors to their 13-9 record. Not bad for a player who was this close to be traded to the Knicks.
Lowry is in the second year of a four year deal with the Raptors (which he can opt out of in 2017-18). By that point he'll have spent half his career in Toronto (assuming he opts in). So, given some of the other big names that have played for Toronto, it feels fair to bring Harsh Dave in to ask:
Harsh, how do we properly evaluate Lowry's place in Raptors history?
The Raptors franchise, with around 20 years of mostly mediocre results, puts forth only three candidates for the distinction of best player in Raptors history: Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and now Kyle Lowry.
Let’s get the fringe candidates out of the way quickly.
DeMar DeRozan: no, man.
Morris Peterson: I love Mo-Pete and he’s one of the few players who had a long career in the NBA primarily with the Raptors. But he was a nice role player, and that’s it.
Amir Johnson: The heart and soul of our defense for years. He played through injuries, set screens, and was an analytics darling right as the way we assigned value to players started to change. We all love Amir Johnson, but he was never a guy to single-handedly turn around the fortunes of a Franchise.
Jose Calderon: Why? So we can frame a photo of him getting yelled at by KG? No.
Rod Black: "So Tracy, do you regret leavi-"
Tracy McGrady grabs the mic, punches Rod and stares into the camera lens.
"I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THIS QUESTION OR THIS CITY. SUCK ON MY 7 ALL STAR APPEARANCES AND 2 SCORING TITLES."
Just say that, Tracy, you've earned it. Shaq already said "shit" on Canadian TV, we won’t mind.
Damon Stoudamire: I’m sure some older Raptors fans than me remember Damon Stoudamire fondly. Unfortunately, he only spent two seasons and change here, and those were with the expansion-era Raptors. Personally, he’s third on the list of all-time Stouda(e)mires after Amar’e and Salim.
Okay, my real opinion is this:
Vince Carter is unquestionably the greatest Raptor of all time. He’s had a direct impact in the emergence of Canada’s basketball program, he was the marquee star of the NBA for a time, and he’s the only player who took us to the not-so-lofty heights of a Conference Semifinal series. And that’s before we get into the appeal he carried from his dunking prowess in-game and that one legendary night in Oakland. Remember, he was the cast as the antagonist in Like Mike. A dude playing in Toronto, Canada, was THE guy to beat in a movie that featured Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Allen Iverson, David Robinson, etc.
He also did this in a playoff game:
He wasn't done either. Like...what? pic.twitter.com/QJOzHFPMho— Merry Krishna (@IamHarshDave) December 9, 2015
Unfulfilled potential, the erosion of our memories, and a sour ending to his Toronto chapter might have changed how we think of Vince Carter, but make no mistake, Vinsanity is and was the greatest thing to happen to this Franchise. This team potentially goes the way of the Vancouver Grizzlies without him.
Chris Bosh is an interesting case to me. He’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a truly great player while he was here, and even had the longevity that many others didn't, spending seven years in Toronto. Carter mesmerized you by doing the impossible on a nightly basis. Kyle Lowry’s charm is his energy, toughness, and relatability for a town that rightly or wrongly brands itself as blue-collar. Chris Bosh was different -- he was svelte and lithe. He was ruthlessly efficient on offence. You watched him and thought, "damn, that’s a super tall dude who just happens to be a little bit faster, smoother and more skilled than everyone else." Oddly, that comes off negative, because it probably is. Bosh was so quietly good at what he did that you never noticed him playing a part in changing how the power forward spot in the NBA was played. In his last season here, he averaged 24 and 11 on 52% shooting. He still leads the Raptors in most offensive categories all-time.
So where does that leave Kyle Lowry? I still say he’s firmly in third place. Statistically, the peaks of his play have probably been higher than Bosh’s. Lowry has been the best point guard in the East for half of last year and so far this year. He’s a complete difference maker on both ends of the floor. We've been over this, the Raptors are a bad team when Lowry isn't on the court, and among the best when he is. Here’s what gets in his way:
Longevity - This is only his 4th year with the Raptors. If he completes this year and next year at a similar sort of pace to last year, he might have a legitimate case to be our 2nd best player all-time. He doesn't appear on any all-time statistical categories yet (just 4th in assists, for example).
Playoff success - Right now, his and Bosh’s playoff resumes are identical. Two appearances, two first round exits. To enter the pantheon of Raptor fandom, give us that series win, K-Low.
Thought exercise though, what would a player have to do to surpass Carter all time?
Bonus Random Take: Speaking of ranking things, the world needs to know where you stand on Starbucks. Let's have it.
Listen buddy, Reynolds, you're testing my patience on this here family-friendly website, Raptors HQ.
Starbucks needs to go. When people tell me that they prefer Starbucks coffee to Tim Hortons, my mind literally cannot comprehend why.
Is it the quality of the coffee? Do you drink Starbucks for the pure, freshly ground taste of beans sprouted from a Colombian coffee plant that's kept in a garden out back of each fine Starbucks establishment? Oh wait, you mean to say that's not what Starbucks is? Oh, it just so happens to also be a multinational corporation that operates under the same general premise as Tim Hortons!
Coffee is just a vehicle for caffeine. Tim Hortons' whole thing is -- we didn't spend a second longer than we needed to on spiffing this place up, but you know what, take your $1.50 shit coffee and get out of my face. I can respect that.
But Starbucks? Masterful branding, yes. How much better is Starbucks coffee than Tim Hortons? 5%? 10%? But somehow that's worth the $27 they'll charge you to sprinkle some whipped cream on top of their mass produced and imported coffee beans.
This whole contrived experience has people patting themselves on the back for having sophisticated taste in coffee. And that's reflected in the experience of actually BEING INSIDE a Starbucks. People let themselves be disenchanted by the idea of being a regular ass person like me who doesn't know the difference between good and bad coffee. It's okay! You're allowed to not know!
Look, Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons is the caffeine equivalent of passionately having a horse in the race of McDonalds vs. Burger King. This isn't Uncle Wociej's Burger Joint on the corner of the street with a special Polish recipe that's been passed down for generations. Stop being a coffee elitist and drink the possibly slightly shittier coffee and save yourself some money. Stop buying into the ambience. This isn't that hard.
Large Shitty Tim Hortons Regular, please.