Sports Illustrated revealed the next portion of their Top 100 list of NBA players for 2016-17 on Wednesday, and the (presumably) final Toronto Raptor was on it. I mean, unless Bruno has really made some strides over the summer.
Kyle Lowry landed at number 14 on the list, a spot that both acknowledges his greatness over the past two seasons, but is quick to exclude him from the true cream of the NBA’s elite. I’ve been ranking our Raptors versus the others at their positions, but this time writer Ben Golliver took the bat out of my hands.
After two straight years of frustrating early exits from the playoffs, Lowry shook off his shooting slumps to lead a “good but not great” Raptors roster to the Eastern Conference finals. While Lowry doesn’t possess Wall’s athleticism, or Lillard’s deep range, or Irving’s handle, or Conley’s playoff experience, he almost certainly possesses the fewest weaknesses among this group. Given his age and the fact that he’s at or very near his ceiling, Lowry probably won’t crack the seemingly impenetrable top three at his position. That’s fine, so long as he gets his due for being at the forefront of the loaded second tier.
Lowry has undoubtedly exceeded every expectation that both the franchise and the fans had when he was acquired in 2011. He’s become the heart and soul of a winning team, and the cornerstone of a franchise that’s at its historical apex. With Lowry having just turned 31, and able to opt-out after the season, it begs the question: has he led them as far as he can? Is his personal success a microcosm for this iteration of the Raptors? Very good, but not quite great?
Whatever the answer is, we’re blessed as sports fans to have a guy with Lowry’s combination of tenacity, toughness and skill wearing our colours. His third team All-NBA selection (should have been 2nd — I’m looking at you Dame) last season was national recognition of just how consistently good he’s been, and this ranking reflects that.
So, what do you think of 14? Too high, too low, just right?