The Raptors go as Kyle Lowry goes. Over the past two seasons, one in which he should have been an All Star and one in which he deservedly was, his numbers have slightly declined.
Kyle Lowry Season Stats:
For a team that has a starting lineup consisting of three non-floor spacers in DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas, the drop off from a .38 3FG% to a below-average .338 hurts. Virtually everywhere else though, Lowry's productivity on the surface remained consistent from last year. When you consider how well Lowry played for the first two months of the season, it's remarkable that his numbers managed to drop all the way back down to only pretty-good territory.
Lowry's season comes down to two excellent months, followed by two very poor months. Here's the month by month breakdown of his season.
Lowry Monthly Breakdown:
Lowry was putting up a ~8.5 Net Rating for November and December, while having a TS% of ~57%, and a turnover percentage well below 10% -- all this while having a massive usage rate in the mid-high 20 percent range. December was the peak of Lowry's usage, which makes sense given DeRozan suffered his injury in late November and missed the better part of two months.
Although Lowry admirably had his strongest stretch of the season in the month directly after that, you can quantify just how much the burden of carrying the team for 20+ games weighed him down in January and February. His TS% dropped by over 10%, and his legs (and decision-making) absolutely left him as his 3FG% dipped below 30% over the course of the 2 months.
The 2013-14 season was still the best of Lowry's career. Holistically, it didn't have the peaks of this season, but avoided its awful valleys as well. Here's a month by month breakdown of Lowry last year.
Those are some beautiful splits. I found it especially notable that his usage crescendoed towards the end of the season, peaking in April, as opposed to December. His Net Rating was hovering around five for the entirety of the season. His defensive metrics were much more favourable to him last year as well. Remember, Amir Johnson's defensive regression, DeMar's injury (a surprisingly competent defensive player now), and his own injury troubles all contributed to this drop-off.
Last year, the Raptors had an abnormally healthy season. Their starters missed a total of thirteen games all season. This year, Lowry and DeRozan alone missed 34 games between them. Lowry's a 6-foot tall, 29 year old who plays a high octane brand of basketball that isn't conducive to playing the number of games and minutes he has been playing. I'd argue that Lowry's poor second half of the season is more a result of those things than it is of the beginning of a long-term regression.
For me, Kyle Lowry's still the key cog in this iteration of the Raptors. However, without more reliance on Valanciunas or unprecedented internal development elsewhere on the roster, the Raptors and Masai Ujiri will need to put more complementary players around Lowry to maximize his effectiveness over the course of his contract. Lowry's minutes need to be managed with more foresight. Since the beginning of last year, we've seen a year and a half of really good Lowry and a half season of bad Lowry. Don't let the chronological order of those events deter you from the facts. Kyle Lowry's the best player on the Raptors, and helping Good Lowry re-emerge will only better serve this franchise in its pursuit of advancing further in the playoffs next time around.
All stats from NBA.com and Basketball Reference