This was Kyle Lowry's season. All of the record breaking, precedent setting and arena rocking that took place in Toronto this year was a product of Lowry's season-long brilliance. Masai Ujiri put the pieces in place, but Lowry was the adhesive that bound them into a Conference Finals-worthy team.
He fulfilled the off-season muscle-watch hype, he avoided the physical breakdown that left the Raptors stranded in 2014-15 and he shot down the endless unwarranted questions about his mental fortitude in the playoffs with a string of signature games during Toronto's deep run.
Offensively, he became the embodiment of the team the Bryan Colangelo pried him away from in the summer of 2012. He bombed threes with high-volume efficiency and charged the lane in a way that must make Houston's Daryl Morey swoon. It all translated into the most prolific and efficient season of Lowry's career.
On the other end, a more limber and healthy Lowry helped turn around the Raptors' defense, sealing up the perimeter holes that did the Raptors in against the Wizards in 2015, and aggressively probing passing lanes. He was helped of course by the introduction of Cory Joseph into the team, but make no mistake, Lowry was more than just a one-way star this season -- as his personal best 3.7 Defensive Win Shares per Basketball Reference would suggest.
He was a superstar, a deserved All-Star starter on his home court, and a Third Team All-NBAer -- and you could make a strong case for him as a Second Teamer ahead of the more offense-leaning Damian Lillard. It was the kind of season-long individual performance Raptors fans have yearned for since Vince Carter's peak. Toronto, after so many years of never being able to claim a top-10 player in the league, had one this year in Lowry. Maybe nine guys finished ahead of him in MVP voting, but to those who watched him closely this year, it became clear that Lowry's "Over Everything" status is well-earned.
Regular Season: 77 Games (77 Starts) | 21.2 Points | 4.7 Rebounds | 6.4 Assists | 2.1 Steals | 0.4 Blocks | 42.7 FG% | 38.8 3FG% | 81.1 FG% | +6.0 NET Rating | +6.0 ON/OFF Split | 22.2 PER
Playoffs: 20 Games (20 Starts) | 19.1 Points | 4.7 Rebounds | 6.0 Assists | 1.6 Steals | 0.2 Blocks | 39.7 FG% | 30.4 FG% | 75.0 FT% | 16.6 PER
February 26th, 2016 vs. Cleveland (99-97 Raptors Win)
How fitting is it that in the biggest game, of the most memorable Raptors season ever, against the eventual champions, Lowry turned in perhaps his most iconic performance as a Raptor? With 43 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals on a ludicrous 15-of-20 shooting, Lowry would have already thrown his name onto the shortlist of greatest single games by a Raptor ever. But after 18 of those 43 came over the course of a fourth-quarter comeback, and with the final two coming in the form of a game-winning step-back jumper, Lowry might have outclassed any of the contenders.
Lowry turned in a couple honourable mentions in the playoffs as well. Game 7 against Miami might have carried more narrative might than the Cleveland game -- that 35-point, nine-assist, seven-rebound, 11-of-20 effort came just 12 days after his famous night of solo contemplation on the ACC court after he scored just seven points on 13 shots in Game 1 against the Heat.
Similarly outstanding was his Game 4 explosion against the Cavs in which he dropped 35 points on 14-of-20 from the field and 4-of-7 from long range.
And while it didn't translate into a Game 7-forcing win in the Eastern Conference Finals, Lowry's last desperate punches in the third quarter of Game 6 against Cleveland served as one last special moment for the fans who deserved every last drop of satisfaction that could be extracted from the 2015-16 season.
Lowry's greatness this year wasn't confined to just a handful of games, though. Sure, the five 30-plus-point playoff outbursts, the late February thriller against the Cavs and the two duels against Steph Curry and the Warriors stand out among the pack. But Lowry's wire-to-wire, team-buoying consistency was what turned his season into one of the best this organization has seen.
December 17th, 2015 vs. Charlotte (109-99 Raptors Loss)
Oddly enough, this also went down as Patrick Patterson's worst game of the season. Lowry's additional contributions helped make this one of the ugliest games of the team's season overall. He scored 20 points in the most spectacularly inefficient way possible -- he shot 6-of-29 from the field, and a 2015 Lance Stephenson-esque 3-of-17 from three. All told, the Raptors shot just 9-of-39 from outside and 36 percent from the field.
This game came during one of Lowry's only down spells of the season. Before the team rocketed up the standings post-Christmas, Lowry had some questioning whether or not his early hot shooting could actually sustain itself. A small blip in mid-late December saw Lowry forcing things a bit too much. But ultimately, it was just a minor hiccup that preceded his second-half tear.
Strengths & Weaknesses
+Those pull-up threes in transition, or coming around screens are a beautiful thing to behold.
+Showed this season that he has the ability to shine in the most important games on the schedule.
+Late night shootarounds.
+Has a really nice view from atop the pile of everything below him.
-Sometimes hard to reach because he's perched so high up on said pile of everything.
-Was only the third or fourth best point guard in a league loaded with incredible point guards.
Role Next Season
This one's simple. Barring a miraculous free agency coup, Lowry will enter next season once again as the Raptors' alpha. What happens after next year, when he has the ability to opt out of his contract and enter free agency in a summer where the salary cap will surpass $100 million, remains to be seen. But for at least one more year, Raptors fans can expect to be treated to Lowry's outstanding point guarding as he looks to match or blow past the lofty standards he set this year.
A GIF to Sum up the Season
LOL! I forgot about this: