Toronto Raptors X-Factor this season is Kyle Lowry

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo : ToBereswill/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo : ToBereswill/Getty Images) /

The Raptors key to success this year is a familiar face and is the remaining half of the backcourt duo that led the team for six years.

Look up and down the Toronto Raptors net ratings from the past five seasons and one name makes its mark regularly: Kyle Lowry.

A former Villanova standout, Lowry did not make his way to the Raptors until his career was already seven years in. Now, the team is relying on him to right the ship and capitalize on their ultimate high-risk high-reward move.

When the Raptors decided to make a blockbuster deal, sending DeRozan down south and bringing an upgrade in Kawhi Leonard, they risked a possible fissure of the bond between Lowry and the franchise.

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Known for more than just their careers alongside each other, DeMar DeRozan and Lowry were friends off the court, creating a bond that was more than just basketball.

When the Raptors traded away his good friend, they were choosing to trust in the work ethic of Lowry. His silence following the trade has spoken volumes.

Last year was actually a down year of sorts for Lowry.  He saw not only his minutes drop to the lowest since his first year with the team, but also his points per game dip to 16.2. Despite the dip, Lowry’s  plus/minus was the third-highest of his career.

When Lowry has been at his best, the Raptors have flown to the top of the Eastern Conference, earning a top three seed each of the past four seasons.

Adding a piece like Leonard who already has a Finals MVP in his career could be the boon that Lowry needs to enter a new level in the playoffs.

During his time in San Antonio, Leonard played much of his career with a Hall-of-Fame point guard, Tony Parker.

As Parker aged, his minutes began to decline. As his minutes declined, the Spurs success waned. Still a perennial playoff contender, the Spurs shrunk in comparison to the Warriors each year. Lowry is an upgrade over the last several years of Parker and can allow Leonard to compete at a championship level again.

In Leonard’s last full season, he averaged over 20 points a game, accompanied by his acclaimed defense. The addition of Leonard’s skillset to Lowry’s can be lethal for the Raptors this season.

All of the signs point towards Lowry taking yet another step forward in his career, so long as he can stay healthy and motivated. A mix of low turnover rates and high shooting percentage will mesh well with the skillset of Kawhi who can shoot from deep at a high percentage and stretch the floor.

The biggest effect of the Leonard trade will be the decreased reliance on Lowry on the defensive end. Undersized, Lowry’s stopping power requires more energy than most. Spending significant energy on defense, can have major ramification on your offense.

Lowry will be fresher on both sides of the ball this season, with a new number one option to depend on. In a smaller role, Toronto will need him to be better than ever.

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The only way for the Raptors to reach their  pinnacle is Lowry at his best.