The “LeBronto” era
Before we get to LeBron, let’s address the change Lowry went through in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. Lowry would have his best two seasons of his career following the 0-4 sweep against the Wizards. He went from averaging nearly 18 points a game the past two seasons to averaging 21 and 22, respectively.
He made the All-Star team both seasons and even made a third-team All-NBA team in 2016. This is where Lowry would assert himself as a top-five point guard in the league. It just never so happened that his individual success ever translated to team success outside the regular season.
They’d finish with over 50 wins both seasons to lose to LeBron in the conference finals in 2016, and in the semi-finals in 2017. Lowry cannot be to blame here, he and DeRozan had no real supporting cast. The third-best player on the Toronto Raptors was averaging 7.5 points, while the third-best player on the Cavs was Kevin Love. The fact that the Raptors even got two games from them in 2016 shows you how good DeRozan and Lowry were.
The only real chance Lowry and the Raptors seemed to have against LeBron was the 2017-2018 season. Lowry had taken a step back from scoring and the Raptors had their best season in history with 59 wins — only the Rockets had more wins that season with 65. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Kyrie and completely revamped their team in the middle of the season.
The time to finally beat LeBron was now for the Toronto Raptors and most expected them to beat them after seeing the Cavaliers struggle against the Pacers. Except, much like their last season, the Raptors were swept yet again. In three consecutive playoffs facing LeBron, the Raptors were 2-12. It was clear that the DeRozan-Lowry experiment was never going to work. DeRozan was a great player but was never great enough to be the number one option on a championship team.
That is why what was going to happen next was the best thing to happen to Lowry’s career.