Toronto Raptors: Taking a look at Kyle Lowry’s unorthodox career

Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images /

Kyle Lowry is one of the best guards in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors and has been for quite a while now. However, Lowry took a more unconventional route in getting there.

Like most NBA stars, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry was highly recruited coming out of high school. Lowry was the 29th-ranked player in the country back in 2004, according to the RSCI. He then committed to Villanova and played two seasons there.

In his freshman season at Villanova Lowry averaged just 7.5 points and 2.0 assists per game and was still named to the Big East All-Rookie team. In his sophomore season, Lowry was vaulted into the starting lineup and increased his averages to 11.0 points and 3.7 assists per game and was named to the All-Big East second team.

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In 2006 Kyle Lowry entered the NBA Draft and was selected 24th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. In his rookie season in the NBA Kyle Lowry only played 10 games before suffering a broken wrist that required season-ending surgery. In his second NBA season, Lowry lost the battle for the starting point guard spot to Mike Conley and was subsequently traded to the Houston Rockets halfway through his third season.

Kyle Lowry’s fourth NBA season was much like the first three. He struggled with playing inconsistent minutes in a bench point guard role and it wasn’t until his fifth NBA season that Lowry was finally given the starting job. This is when he finally began to find his place in the league.

During Lowry’s time in Houston, he battled a lot of good veteran NBA point guards for the starting job including Aaron Brooks and Goran Dragic. This is what led to Kyle Lowry eventually becoming expendable.

When Lowry went down with an injury in the 2011-12 season Goran Dragic became the interim started and really proved his worth. It was at this time that head coach Kevin McHale decided to permanently move Dragic into the starting lineup which meant Lowry was headed back to the bench.

Seasons five, six and seven were pretty consistent for Lowry. He was consistently in the starting lineup and was averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 assists per game (per Basketball-Reference), solid numbers for a starting point guard. However, because he had lost his starting job to Goran Dragic this meant the Rockets no longer had a significant role for Lowry. Thus, in between his sixth and seventh season in the NBA, Lowry was traded to the Toronto Raptors and this is when everything changed.

Lowry’s second season in Toronto and his eighth season in the league his numbers jumped all the way up to 17.9 points and 7.4 assists. And while he wasn’t named an All-Star that season, Lowry would continue to improve in each of the next six seasons which resulted in him being named to six straight All-Star teams.

Kyle Lowry had an incredibly unique journey, battling for the starting job in Memphis and eventually making his first All-Star game at the age of 28. That is literally unprecedented. In fact, Kyle Lowry is the oldest player to make his All-Star debut at age 28 that then went on to play in six or more All-Star games according to Just All-Stars.

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This type of late-career leap has only ever been seen by one other player, Chauncey Billups – AKA Mr. Big Shot. Kyle Lowry credits a lot of his success to the Toronto Raptors for finally trusting him and giving him the opportunity but also to Chauncey Billups. In an interview at All-Star weekend in 2017 Kyle Lowry said that Chauncey was a big mentor of his in terms of being a leader and continuing to grow as a player every year (see the interview here).

Part of what has made Kyle Lowry so special over the last six years with the Toronto Raptors has been his leadership. As mentioned, Lowry attributes a lot of what he learned in terms of being a leader to Chauncey Billups. Lowry has shown that when he is the emotional leader of a team, the entire team feeds off his energy. He has an incredible ability to galvanize the team with his willingness to take charges and make timely threes.

Not only did Lowry fill the latter half of his career with individual accomplishments, but he also topped it all off with a gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Olympics and an NBA title in 2019. There’s no telling how many more years Kyle Lowry has left in the tank, but it seems like this guy just keeps on getting better with age.

Let’s hope he can continue this streak of All-Star appearances for at least a couple more years.

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