Lowry showed up in Toronto as a 6-0, 210-pounder, as he was acquired in exchange for Gary Forbes and a first-round pick. Lowry was averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 assists per game in Houston, but had previously been chased out of Memphis by a young PG named Mike Conley and hadn’t really set the league on fire during his first six years.
He has some struggles in his first year in Toronto, as he shared the starting role with Jose Calderon. His averages dropped to 12 points and 6 assists while shooting 40% from the field.
This year, Lowry gets more touches and changes his number to 7 as Andrea Bargnani gets moved. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan really start to take the lead, with the Villanova alum averaged 18 points and 7.4 assists per game.
Lowry also extends his range to become a real 3-point marksman averaging 38% from deep on over 6 attempts a game. He becomes the leader of a playoff team that nearly squeaks into the second round.
Game 7 against the No. 6 seed Nets goes down to the wire. Down by 1 with 6.2 on the clock, Greivis Vásquez inbounds the ball to Lowry at the top of the key. Lowry takes a couple of hard dribbles to get around Deron Williams, he gets doubled by Quincy Acy, trapped up top but his dribble is still live.
He moves left, a third man commits but then backs off, Lowry splits the double team and has a clean look at a floater to win the series.
But it gets blocked by the fingertips of a helping Paul Pierce. A veteran read that is so classic Pierce all you could do at the moment was throw up your hands. Lowry collapses on the floor as DeRozan consoles him.
Besides the championship, this one may have been the biggest season of Lowry’s career. He slimmed down to 195 pounds, made his first All-Star team as a 28-year-old, put up a career-high seven steals one night against Miami, and leads the Raptors to a third consecutive playoff appearance.
The team was still swept by the Wizards in round one, unfortunately. I feel like this would hurt more if we haven’t been 21-6 against the Wiz since that series.
Now the Lowry/DeRozan tandem is in full force. Lowry made 3rd team All-NBA and dropped a career-high 43 points in February to beat the LeBron James-led Cavs in one of those “playoff preview” regular-season matchups.
The question is no longer about making the playoffs, but making the Finals. As the Golden State Warriors ransack the West, the Raptors clawed their way to the second seed and the mantle of only other true contender (besides the Cavaliers) in the East.
Lowry and the Raptors beat out the Pacers and Heat in the first two rounds, each in 7 games, before facing off against LeBron and Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they… lose in six.
While it was disappointing, let’s not forget that before the 2019 title this was the furthest the Raptors ever got in the playoffs. It was considered to be a huge milestone for both the team and the franchise at the time.
We trade for Serge Ibaka! Doesn’t matter, we’re swept by the Cavs. Cue the ‘Lowry is a playoff choker’ music that he would eventually shut up in an emphatic fashion.
We worry if Lowry starting to decline, as the undersized guard turned 31 and his scoring numbers dropped down to around 16 points a game. The Raptors have the best record in the NBA at 59-23, but are still swept by LeBron in the second round.
It would be REALLY easy to compete for championships if this LeBron dude didn’t go supernova whenever he wanted to.
Here’s where the script changes.
In a somewhat desperate play to reach the Finals, Raptors president Masai Ujiri makes one of the most important trades in NBA history, swapping his homegrown star in DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard.
Lowry morphs his game again from co-All-Star alongside DeRozan to a true second fiddle backing up Kawhi. He defended the other team’s best guard and fully embraced his role as a facilitator (career-high 8.7 assists a game that season), finding his true calling as a veteran star and locker room leader along the way.
The rest we know. Lowry, alongside Kawhi, leads the Raptors to the 2019 Finals. And in Game 6, with the eyes of the world on him, Kyle erupts for a monster 21-point 6-assist first half, including a 15-point 1st quarter and going 5-6 from three (during his HOF induction, this will be in the highlight montage, you wait).
Make no mistake, Kawhi was by far the best player on that title team, but this team just doesn’t win without Lowry. He led the team to the title, silencing the doubters along the way.
With DeRozan and Kawhi gone, Kyle finds himself stationed even more firmly in the role of veteran leader of the team. He makes his final All-Star team with Toronto as he proves he’s still able to shoulder a heavy load on the court.
I’ll never forget him mounting a comeback after going down 30 to the Mavericks (largest comeback in franchise history). It was such a classic Lowry performance. A microcosm of his never-say-die attitude.
In the playoff bubble, Lowry once again proved to the world that he has what it takes. After Toronto casually shakes off the beat-up Nets in five, Lowry then went toe-to-toe with a superior Celtics team in the second round.
VanVleet went cold shooting, Siakam was not himself, Anunoby wasn’t ready yet, Gasol was over the hill, and Lowry looked around and went “well, I guess it’s gonna be me.”
This included a legendary Game 6 in which Lowry played two overtimes and went shot for shot with the likes of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. He played over 50 minutes finished the night with 33 points, six rebounds, and eight, shooting 60% from the field.
The Raptors eventually lost the series in seven, but it was this great moment for Lowry historically. It painted this beautiful picture of Lowry against the world. Again, he made his team better. So even in defeat, that Celtics series was a win for Lowry.
His last with the Raptors. He dealt with injuries, COVID, Tampa, losing all the time. This isn’t a year to remember.