The restarted Raptors are still seeking to defend their 2019 NBA title. For our latest series, Things for the Rings, we’ll break down what each essential person on the team can do to answer the major question on every fan’s mind: What does each Raptor need to do to make a Toronto repeat reality?
Thing for his Ring: Full KLOE mode (on offense)
Kyle Lowry’s application for the Basketball Hall of Fame really starts here. For the Raptors to triumph, Lowry will have to show he can be the best player on a true title-contending team. Lowry may not lead the Raptors this post-season in any statistical categories save assists and charges drawn, but he has to be the undisputed engine — especially on the offensive end — every game.
The knock on Lowry as a playoff performer was overdone even before last year, but it is fair to say that he has rarely looked (or been able) to take over games in the post-season the way the league’s brightest stars often due.
To put those numbers into context, Lowry’s True Shooting Percentage in Toronto is basically the same as Klay Thompson’s career numbers; and his Usage is, oddly, exactly what he’s put up this year, which is basically the same as the marks set by Chris Paul and Kevin Love this season. All of that screams something less than “undisputed top banana.”
The more concerning thing is how those numbers dip in the playoffs. That will need to change if the Raptors are to repeat. Beyond the raw need for scoring the Raptors will need against better playoff defenses, Lowry is going to need to be aggressive in hunting for his shot so as to make it harder for opponents to load up on Pascal Siakam. Toronto isn’t good enough offensively to have their best player slip into bouts of passivity. What they need is KLOE every game.
Can He Do It?
There is precedent for Lowry to take the controls. In 20 games in 2015-16, Kyle put up a 26.5 percent Usage Rate while averaging 19.1/6.1/4.7. Unfortunately, Kyle had a putrid 50.8 TS%. A seven-game sample size in 2013-14 is more encouraging — there Kyle posted a 21.1/4.7/4.7 line on a 26.1 Usage percentage and a 56.7 TS% — which included a whopping seven free throw attempts a game.
Realistically though, Lowry is going to have to be even better. He’ll likely need to keep his Usage above the 25 percent range, while pushing his True Shooting Percentage to about 60 percent (something he’s done twice in the regular season in his career) to provide Toronto with enough lead guard juice to run the gauntlet.
Chances of It Happening: 5 out of 10
Never bet against Kyle Lowry, but leading a team to the Finals, scoring at borderline elite efficiency, upping your regular season workload, and also playing as a small guard is a recipe that really only Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, and Allen Iverson have managed in the modern era.
On the bright side: If Lowry can add his name to that particular list while playing for this version of the Raptors, then he really will have burnished his Hall of Fame case for good.