Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry Proving That Last Season’s Career Year Was No Fluke

Heading into the 2014-15 season, one of the biggest questions the Toronto Raptors were facing from critics was whether point guard Kyle Lowry would be able to repeat his career-best performance from the previous season.

Lowry had averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds during what was a contract year last season. The point guard was rewarded for his performance with a four-year, $48 million extension with the Raptors this past summer.

It’s not uncommon to see athletes excel during a contract year and then drop off the following season once they land a lucrative deal.

Fortunately, Lowry is quickly proving that his career year last season was no fluke by arguably putting up even better numbers this season on a surging Raptors team.

Entering play on Thursday, Toronto is at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 13-2 record. The team is also tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the best record in the NBA.

Lowry has played all 15 games this season and is averaging 18.1 points, 6.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Keep in mind that the 28-year-old is putting up similar numbers to last season despite only averaging 33.5 minutes per game compared to the 36.2 minutes per game that he averaged last year.

Production numbers aside, Lowry has also improved his game from last year when it comes to doing the little things that often go unnoticed. For example, he has averaged just 1.6 turnovers per game compared to 2.5 turnovers from last season.

Taking a page out of teammate DeMar DeRozan’s book, Lowry has also drawn more fouls and attempted 5.9 free throws per game compared to 4.9 attempts per game last year.

The one major change in Lowry’s game from last season to this season has been his reliance on the three-point shot. Last season, Lowry averaged 6.3 three-point field-goal attempts per game and hit 38 percent of his shots from downtown. This season, the Villanova product has attempted just 4.6 three-point field goals per game and is shooting just 31.9 percent from beyond the arc.

On the other hand, Lowry’s overall field-goal percentage this season is up to 45.5 percent compared to 42.3 percent from last year. This shows that he’s still finding ways to be an effective scorer despite not having as many of his three-pointers falling.

Again, it’s worth noting that we’re just 15 games into the season here. From 2011-2014, Lowry shot 37.4 percent from beyond the arc, so it’s very reasonable to assume that his effectiveness from long range will eventually go back to what it has been in the past.

Overall, though, it’s safe to conclude that Lowry simply hasn’t taken it easy after signing a multiyear deal over the summer. He’s still the same impact player that Raptors fans got used to seeing last year.

If Lowry keeps playing at this pace throughout the season, a selection to the Eastern Conference All-Star team shouldn’t be out of the question.

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.

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Kyle Lowry Crosses Andre Miller, Throws No-Look Pass to Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry could not be stopped against the Washington Wizards on Friday, recording a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). He made it look easy all night, and the the play above is a perfect example. 

Lowry’s crossover forced Andre Miller to hit the deck. After a spin move, Lowry threw a no-look pass to Jonas Valanciunas for a bucket.

The Raptors went on to win (in their amazing throwback jerseys) 103-84.

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Pistons beat 76ers behind 19 from Kyle Singler (Yahoo Sports)

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 23: Kyle Singler #25 of the Detroit Pistons prepares to shoot a free throw against the Philadelphia 76ers during the game on October 23, 2014 at the The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Kyle Singler scored 19 points and Josh Smith added 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Detroit Pistons beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-103 in an exhibition game Thursday night.


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Gonzaga Basketball: Watch Kyle Wiltjer Make 70 of 75 3-Pointers

Gonzaga basketball adds highly touted transfer Kyle Wiltjer this season. Wiltjer recently posted this video to his personal Youtube account.

The video shows Wiltjer practicing his shooting in the McCarthy Athletic Center at Gonzaga.  In five minutes of shooting, he makes 70 of 75 three-pointers, and he did this with one ball and one rebounder.

Most would agree that Wiltjer is one of the most prolific shooters at the power forward position. He transferred to Gonzaga and spent a redshirt year working on improving his strength and athleticism.

It is obvious after watching this shooting performance that he has not lost the shooting prowess that made him a matchup nightmare for many big men in the SEC.

When he last played for the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2012-13 season, Wiltjer shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc. What is more impressive than the fact that he made 55 three-pointers is the fact that he attempted 150. He had a green light to shoot from John Calipari that he will likely retain this season under Mark Few.

This year, as he looks to establish a frontcourt partnership with Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, the key will be his ability to drag defenders away from the paint.

When Gonzaga’s offense is clicking on all cylinders, it utilizes a high-low offense that features a strong post player and a superior face-up shooter. Wiltjer will look to fill the latter role in the same way that Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower did these past two seasons.

Gonzaga ranked 19th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage. As a team, the Bulldogs knocked down 39 percent of their three-point attempts, and as a backcourt, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. hit a combined 140 three-pointers last season.

After watching this video of Wiltjer’s almost effortless ability to sink three-pointer after three-pointer, it appears that he will be a dynamic new addition to this already potent offense.

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Gonzaga Basketball: Watch Kyle Wiltjer Make 70 of 75 Three Pointers

Gonzaga basketball adds highly touted transfer Kyle Wiltjer this season. Wiltjer recently posted this video to his personal Youtube account.

It shows him make 70 of 75 three-pointers in five minutes of shooting. He did this with one ball and one rebounder.

Most would agree that Wiltjer is one of the most prolific shooters at the power forward position. He transferred to Gonzaga and spent a redshirt year working on improving his strength and athleticism.

It is obvious after watching this shooting performance that he has not lost the shooting prowess that made him a matchup nightmare for many big men in the SEC.

When he last played for the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2012-13 season, Wiltjer shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc. He made 55 three pointers.

This year as he looks to establish a frontcourt partnership with Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, the key will be his ability to drag defenders away from the paint.

Gonzaga ranked 19th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage. As a team, the Bulldogs knocked down 39 percent of its three point attempts, and as a backcourt Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. hit a combined 140 three pointers last season.

After watching this video of Wiltjer’s almost effortless ability to sink three-pointer after three-pointer, it appears that he will be a dynamic new addition to this already potent offense.

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Why 2014-15 NBA Season Will Be Most Important of Kyle Lowry’s Career

Kyle Lowry has never been here before.

The Toronto Raptors point guard has been in the NBA for eight years, but he’s never stared down a season as important as 2014-15.

It isn’t a contract year. It isn’t a redemption campaign during which Lowry will look to rebuild his image or successfully stave off injuries that derailed him the season before.

This is different from anything he’s ever faced.

For the first time in his career, Lowry isn’t looking for or trying to establish something new. He’s attempting to sustain what he’s built and prove things are different by ensuring they stay the same.

 

Inspiring 2013-14

Last season was Lowry at his absolute best, and he was compensated accordingly.

Toronto handed him a four-year, $48 million contract after he led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 2008 and first Atlantic Division title since 2007.

To get there, to reach the playoffs and leave lottery demons behind, Lowry and the Raptors had to defy logic.

They were among those accused of tanking. Trading Rudy Gay didn’t help. It was only a matter of time before Lowry followed his exit, becoming another pawn in general manager Masai Ujiri‘s team-maiming game.

Scenarios were in place, according to Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling. Lowry could have been traded to the New York Knicks. He could have been traded elsewhere.

But he wasn’t.

Collective success forced the Raptors to reconsider, and Zwerling writes that Lowry’s continued development ultimately made him indispensable:

During the trade talks, the Raptors observed continued growth with Lowry, which stemmed from motivational conversations in the summer with his two closest mentors in the NBA, Tyronn Lue and Chauncey Billups. According to the source, Billups told Lowry, “You’re screwing up a great opportunity in the NBA.”

Whatever was said to Lowry stuck. The Raptors won 48 games, and he set career highs in points per game (17.9), assists per game (7.4), three-point shooting percentage (38), player efficiency rating (20.1) and win shares (11.7).

Long before the trade deadline passed, it became clear Lowry was the unquestioned leader of the surprising Raptors. He was an All-Star snub, a dark-horse MVP candidate. He was one of the best—if not the bestpoint guards in the Eastern Conference.

Leading into next season, he’s expected to do it all over again and overcome what has been his biggest problem over the years: recurring success.

 

Establishing Continuity

This was only the second time Lowry made the playoffs, and it was the first time he did so as an everyday starter.

His per-game numbers and availability have fluctuated since 2010. His status is fluid. What he brings has never been guaranteed.

“He also has yet to prove that he can string together several exceptionally productive seasons in a row,” Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb wrote in July. “There’s a very real chance that we just witnessed the kind of season that won’t be repeated any time soon.”

Indeed, Lowry’s 2013-14 can be something of a red flag because of how good it was. Roughly 28.5 percent of his career win shares came last season alone, making his performance an anomaly as it pertains to the rest of his NBA pilgrimage.

Lowry’s undefined ability to duplicate that success is what rendered him a hot trade commodity in the first place.

The Raptors had no desire to pay him as of mid-February, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge. They didn’t want to give him Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson or Jrue Holiday money.

Something inevitably changed. Lowry went nowhere and the Raptors were rewarded for retaining him…last season.

But what about next season?

Can Lowry finish in the top 10 of win shares again? Will he once more join superstars like Chris PaulJohn Wall and Curry as one of only four players to average at least 17 points, four rebounds, seven assists and 1.5 steals per game?

Is last season’s Lowry the real Lowry or just a pleasant irregularity?

Statistical and general performance inconsistencies are littered throughout Lowry’s career. Next year is his chance to show the Raptors that the point guard they paid for and believe in is the one they’re going to get.

 

Moving On for Good

Next season has to be the season, too.

Second chances aren’t luxuries Lowry will enjoy much longer. At 28, eight years into his career, this is his shot—his last shot.

The Raptors are assuming all the risk here. They’ve put much of their future in the hands of a point guard who rose to the challenge for one year.

There is no evidence to suggest Lowry will follow his 2013-14 crusade with something equally impressive in 2014-15. All the Raptors have is his word and their faith.

It was only one year ago when he struggled to remain healthy and shoot 40 percent from the field. It was only months ago when the Raptors wereapparentlyplanning for a future without him.

Now he’s their franchise cornerstone, brandishing unparalleled control over where the team goes next.

And, like Daniel Reynolds of Raptors HQ says, the path Toronto is traveling down feels right:

For the first time in forever, the Raptors feel like a franchise with identity and direction. No longer is the franchise running in circles with endless course corrections just to remain mediocre. The new front office — led by Masai Ujiri — have expressed confidence in the core of this team and demonstrated it by bringing them all back. The Raptors quietly went about their business of retaining their division winning roster, and now, a few months before the start of next season, the question becomes: could they be on the verge of reaching a new pinnacle?

Tweaks have been made, additional talent has been acquired and trades have been struck. However, the 2014-15 Raptors are largely the same team being held to different standards.

Any progress they make will be the result of internal improvement and stability. The Raptors are betting the core they have in place is the foundation for something even better than last season.

Headlining that core, propping up that foundation, is Lowry, the longtime question mark now enjoying the perks of stardom while ferrying the beliefs and ambitions of an entire franchise.

“He really just proved to the league and to the ownership and to the other teams that wanted him in free agency that he was for real, and ‘This is who I am,’” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Zwerling.

To that end, Lowry is still a question mark. Last year’s Lowry may be the real Lowry, but continuity is the key. He has to prove himself again.

Never before has he been lauded so mightily or trusted so strongly. Never before has the real Lowry been expected to do so much or have a ceiling so high.

If that’s who he is—someone worthy of such assumptions—2013-14 will happen all over again, and Lowry’s new, much-improved status will reveal itself as a tried-and-true certainty.

Not a potential illusion.

 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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Former UK player Kyle Wiltjer on Olynyk path at Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s strength coach has transformed tall, wiry players before.

     
 

 

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Kyle Lowry Finally Finds NBA Home in Toronto, Signs 4-Year Contract with Raptors

He’ll never share the high-most headlines with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but for a few short weeks in late June and early July, Kyle Lowry’s name wasn’t far below the NBA fold.

Now, after an eight-year stretch rife with ill fits, roster politics and off-court caustics, Kyle Lowry has finally found a home:

Just days removed from initiating a trade that sent John Salmons to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for combo guard Lou Williams and prospect Lucas Nogueira (per ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst)—a move many saw as hedging against Lowry’s departure—the Raptors now have their undisputed point guard of the future.

Following a surprising 48-win season that saw the Raptors make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, hopes are high that Toronto’s young core of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas can become a perennial threat in the East.

For Lowry, Wednesday’s announcement marked a moment nearly a decade in the making.

Taken with the No. 24 pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2006 draft, Lowry spent his first two seasons toiling in obscurity as a backup to rotating point guard cast that included Damon Stoudamire, Chucky Atkins, Juan Carlos Navarro and 2007 lottery pick Mike Conley.

Lowry was eventually traded at the 2009 deadline to the Houston Rockets, where over the course of the next two seasons his steady playmaking and heady scoring ability earned him a spot as a full-time starter.

But a spat with head coach Kevin McHale, spurred by concerns that teammate Goran Dragic was usurping Lowry’s role as the team’s principal playmaker, quickly compromised the latter’s long-term prospects, according (per the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen).

“I don’t think so,” said Lowry of the prospects of co-existing with the ascendant Dragic. “I honestly think it would be tough. Things have to be addressed. The situation would have to be addressed. If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved.”

This, coupled with assault charges stemming from an on-court altercation with a female referee during a pickup game the previous September (per Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin), all but assured Lowry’s eventual departure from Houston.

That formality finally came to pass on July 11, 2012, when Lowry was shipped to Toronto in exchange for Gary Forbes and a 2013 first-round pick (the Oklahoma City Thunder eventually took Steven Adams).

Forbes hasn’t played an NBA game since.

Once again, Lowry found himself competing for the starting point guard position, this time with cagey veteran Jose Calderon. And while the two’s split-duty arrangement didn’t boast quite the off-court fireworks Lowry experienced in Houston, the situation was precarious enough to compel CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, in January 2013, to write that Lowry had “worn out his welcome in Toronto.”

But after Calderon signed as a free agent with the Dallas Mavericks last summer, Lowry—for the first time since his second year in Houston—finally, it seemed, had a team to call his own.

Even with former New Orleans Hornets sparkplug Greivis Vasquez in the fray, it didn’t take long for Lowry to assert himself as Toronto’s unquestioned floor general.

The result: a career year in which Lowry charted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, three-point percentage and player efficiency rating. More importantly, Lowry’s leadership helped catapult the moribund Raptors to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite his borderline All-Star performance, however, Lowry never quite escaped the specter of trade rumors:

As the season wound down, speculation abounded that Lowry wasn’t long for Toronto. No doubt jaded by yet another turn round the rumor mill, Lowry confided in Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski his regrets about how he handled himself in Houston:

I would have done things differently in Houston. I really respected Kevin McHale. I wish I would have had an opportunity to play for him longer. The things he was teaching me, well, I didn‘t understand right away. When you get away from someone, though, see it from the outside looking in, you go back and think, ‘Damn, I could’ve learned some more things from the guy.’

Lowry’s contrition wasn‘t lost on Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports, the company that owns the Raptors, who just weeks later told George Stroumboulopoulos he fully intended to re-sign the mercurial point guard.

Even so, as free agency officially got underway, USA Today’s Sam Amick cited the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat as potential Lowry suitors.

Then, with the NBA blogosphere fully in the reactive throes of the Carlos Boozer amnesty news (per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times), Lowry’s near-future fate was formally, finally secured.

Just hours before the news of Lowry’s signing broke, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale highlighted the positive long-term ramifications at stake for Toronto:

Establishing Toronto as a hot landing spot for prospective free agents becomes that much harder if the Raptors don’t find a way to take care of their own.

Overpaying Lowry is a real danger. Offering him five years and $55 million could be too much. They could come to regret it.

Or they could inch closer to everything they’ve been chasing.

Depending on whether the Raptors exercise their $7 million team option on Amir Johnson, Toronto will either be a few million dollars over or a few million dollars under the salary cap. And while the team still has its mini mid-level exception ($2 million) to spend, it’s likely this year’s Raptors incarnation will be much the same as last year’s: a solid core highlighted by youth-laden upside.

Better still, should Toronto exercise its team options on Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, the Raptors will have just $34 million in committed salaries heading into what could be an equally shape-shifting free-agent class in 2015.

As the franchise’s fortunes unfold further, much will be made of the Raptors’ homegrown trio of DeRozan, Valanciunas and Ross—three players who’ve managed to approximate, if not outright meet, their expectations.

In Lowry, Toronto may have found a fourth.

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Report: Kyle Lowry chooses to re-sign with Raptors

After flirting with potential moves to other NBA cities, free agent point guard Kyle Lowry has re-signed with the Toronto Raptors on a four-year, $48 million contract. Lowry was a potential fit for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. In the end, he chose to stay with a Raptors team that surprised a lot of people last year.  Kyle Lowry has agreed to a 4 year, $48M contract to stay with Toronto, sources tell Yahoo. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014 Lowry averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game for the Raptors last season. He was considered one of the top free agent point guards on the market. This has to be considered a coup for Toronto, who was preparing for the possibility that Lowry would bolt for the bright lights of Los Angeles or Miami. Photo: CBS Sports   The post Report: Kyle Lowry to Remain With the Toronto Raptors appeared first on Sportsnaut.com.

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Kyle Lowry and Raptors Agree on 4-Year Contract: Latest Details and Analysis

Eight-year veteran point guard Kyle Lowry has signed a four-year deal with the Toronto Raptors.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski provides details on Lowry’s signing:

Lowry also announced things on Instagram:

A late first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2006, Lowry took some time to develop into an NBA starter. Over his first four seasons, he had a lot of playing time but started just 30 games overall. 

He finally came into his own during the 2010-11 season with the Houston Rockets, averaging 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game as a full-time starter.

That was only the beginning.

Last season, Lowry put up career bests in all three of those categories with the Toronto Raptors. He started 79 games and averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the field and a career-high 38.0 percent from downtown.

Trey Kerby of NBA TV tweeted an interesting comparison between Lowry and Washington Wizards star John Wall:

Lowry’s surge can be attributed to his work ethic. He’s consistently striving to improve—a trait that goes back to his childhood, according to a tweet from Hoops Hype Canada:

That determination showed in Toronto.

Lowry was instrumental in the Raptors’ most successful season in over a decade. His presence gave the team the necessary tools to compete with more experienced or star-studded squads, and he led the team in both assists and steals per game.

Not only did Lowry look great during the regular season, but he was also stellar during Toronto’s playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. A tweet from NBA TV really sums it up:

Coming off his career season, the 28-year-old Lowry will have an immediate impact at the point guard position. A top-shelf starter, he not only has the skill set to flourish, but also has the endurance to remain on the court for the long haul—he averaged a career-high 36.2 minutes per game in 2013-14.

Retaining Lowry makes Toronto’s backcourt a major strength going forward. With his ability to score from the outside and create open looks for his teammates, expect the Raptors to light up scoreboards in short order.

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