Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is the second best guard inked to a deal with China’s PEAK SPORTS. While that’s not the most astonishing honor, this free agency period, he’s the top point guard on the market. For years he’s been the league’s secret, glassed over repeatedly—even Landry Fields, a reserve in Toronto, generated a higher salary than the starting Lowry.
It wasn’t perennial all-star DeMar DeRozan who captained Toronto’s vessel in last year’s playoff run—it was Lowry. It was the Villanova product’s 3-pointer and slashing lay-in that forced Game 6 against Brooklyn. And it was Lowry’s one-on-three attack, jab-step, and potential series-winning floater that Paul Pierce turned away in the waning seconds of Game 7 that finished the Raptor season.
Lowry then took the podium, mild-mannered and poised, his maturity seemingly washing away years of personality concerns. “This season has been a great season. My teammates, I’ve had the best core group of teammates I’ve ever had in my life, in my career. It’s just a lot. Mad, frustrated, but at the same time understanding that this is only a stepping stone for my growth.”
Last season marked a career year for Lowry in every possible way. He started 79 of the 82 games, averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists, and was promptly snubbed from the 2014 All-Star Game. It was fitting in a way.
Although Toronto Raptor GM Masaj Ujiri reportedly has every intention to offer Lowry a figure around $12 million annually to stay, Lowry has no shortage of suitors: Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles. Considering the vast improvements he made, Lowry could very well command $10-12 million on the market.
Lowry’s latency lies in his slashing ability, shooting 42 percent from 3-10 feet. He’s comfortable in a facilitating role and can create his own shot: Just 28 percent of his baskets were assisted. Last season, the Raptors were nearly five points better with him on the court versus on the bench.
At 6-feet-tall, Lowry was unrelenting and tenacious in 2013-14—honing his 3-point shot to a career high 38 percent. In the playoffs, Lowry posted even better averages: 21.1 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds.
DeRozan’s running mate doesn’t always display his traits in an overt fashion; some of his abilities are expertly developed in secrecy as if a clandestine meeting between him and his skillset. In 2014 he developed a secret weapon: the ability to draw offensive fouls. Per Elias sports bureau, Lowry drew 84 offensive fouls last year. For perspective, Derek Fisher was second with 55. A torrid defensive intensity keeps opposing guards on their heels, and is just another dexterity Lowry has developed in his transformation.
The process of reinventing himself didn’t come easy, though.
“I struggled to prove that I belonged,” Lowry said in March. “My first couple years in the NBA, my fear was that I was going to go to the D-League – and maybe never get back to the NBA. You get a few chances, and then you’re done. Then you’re just a label, never to be a frontline guy.”
Kyle Lowry may not carry the all-star appearances or accolades that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Love bring—but don’t sleep on the Philadelphia product throughout this free agency period. He just might surprise you.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at Rivals, Bleacher Report, Denver Post, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and ESPN Radio, and is currently a columnist for the ESPN TrueHoop Network, FanSided and The Pick and Roll. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).