Since Pascal Siakam went down on December 18th against Detroit, Kyle Lowry has stepped up in ways we didn’t think were sustainable for the 33 year old. Then again, we knew in the backs of our minds not to doubt the fiery guard, especially when he isn’t given a choice but to carry the team’s offense.
In the six games without the team’s top scorer, Lowry is averaging 25.3 points, 8.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 threes per game in 40.3 minutes. Injuries aside, Lowry is doing everything he can to keep the Raptors afloat — an effort which has helped the Raptors win four of the seven games since Pascal’s injury, including that important victory in Detroit.
Lowry has made at least 10 field goals and at least five threes in three separate games over the last seven — totals he only reached twice for the entire season before this most recent tear. To put it simply, don’t question this dude — ever. Because he just doesn’t quit, and likely won’t quit until the absolute finish line.
Luckily for Lowry’s shooting arm, Fred VanVleet returned the game after Pascal and the gang went down, and he’s filled in about as best as we can expect from the fourth year guard. It’s easy to forget his experience sometimes; just his fourth season in the league — the final year of a normal rookie-scale contract.
After four years, it’s safe to call VanVleet a star, and the fact that he’s performing this way after the spring he endured is nothing short of extraordinary. He’s not a “superstar,” but he’s definitely a fringe All-Star and one of the best point guards in the NBA. Fred’s shooting touch escaped him during his time off, but he’s averaging almost 2.5 steals in the six games since returning from injury.
He’s just as aggressive on defense, and that’s been a boon for the Raptors, especially as the team waits for his shot to return (he’s hit eight threes in his last two games, so there’s hope).
The bottom line is Toronto is thirsting for points right now. They might’ve not shown it on the scoreboard, but the offense is struggling. Toss a 25 point per game scorer back in the lineup and watch the wins trickle in as January wraps up and the All-Star Game rolls around.
On to the good stuff!
Line of the Week:
Fred VanVleet vs. Indiana
I spoke so much about Lowry that you probably expected a Lowry line. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of them this week — including two 30-point games — but none really felt as complete as this one did from a fantasy point of view (despite the fact that Fred was only 1-of-8 from deep in this game). His defense and effort were flawless in this one — he was responsible for five stocks total — and he poured in the points inside the arc, shooting 7-of-10 from two, nearly leading to a win against the Pacers.
Pick of the Week:
Kyle Lowry vs. Cleveland, Dec. 31st
There’s really only two guys to pick from on a weekly basis right now. Serge isn’t going to provide the consistent scoring numbers to put up a monster stat line, and the bench, as we all know, is a collective across the board. So it’s Fred, and it’s KLOE over these two to three additional weeks that we’ll be without Pascal — take your pick.
With that said, Lowry would probably have a great game against Cleveland even with a fully loaded roster. The “Sexland” experiment is over, and the defense on the perimeter is worse than ever in Cleveland. Toronto hosts the Cavs on New Year’s Eve, so expect fireworks from the backcourt, including a barrage of threes and one of the two guards to pick up at least three steals. Hell, they may even combine for 60 points in this one.
News Around the League:
Damion Lee of the Warriors is turning heads the last couple weeks since re-joining the team’s main roster. In his last seven games — all starts — the shooting guard is averaging 15 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 32 minutes. He’s adding 1.7 threes and 1.1 steals to those numbers, so he’s obviously a roster worthy player at the moment. With the state of the Warriors roster however, it’s tough to trust any one player not named D’Angelo Russell. Still, if you have the space, pick him up — the Warriors might look to turn his two-way deal into a guaranteed soon enough thanks to his stellar play.
Joe Ingles is a player who should’ve made the column somewhere in the past couple weeks, not this one. Since Mike Conley went down, Ingles has stepped up and returned to form in brilliant fashion. He’d been struggling all season to find a role for his skill set, with Conley’s ball handling effectively making Ingles an obsolete commodity on the wing. But, he’s back in demand, and is rewarding owners to the tune of 16 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.5 threes over his last 11 starts — all in place of Conley. Oh, and the Jazz are 8-3 in that stretch too. Interesting.
Tune in next week!