With a new class being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this week, we're taking a closer look at the Hall of Fame cases of several notable NBA players - some current, some former.
Today, the player we're focusing on is Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Kyle Lowry is an NBA champion. But is he a Hall of Famer?
Prior to helping lead the Raptors to an NBA title, I'm not sure there would have been too much support for a "Lowry is a HOFer" platform. But now? It's certainly worth discussing.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21 ): I'm going with yes.
On top of the accolades he's accumulated up to this point in his career, the title solidified his case. It isn't just that he's a champion now, it's that the Raptors couldn't have done it without him.
As a whole, that's Hall of Fame worthy.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): There's also a good chance he goes down as the greatest Raptor of all-time when it's all said and done, right? Not the best - that's Kawhi Leonard, followed by Vince Carter and DeMar DeRozan - but arguably the most important.
Adams: Does the fact that the Raptors couldn't have done it without him automatically clinch it, though? History is littered with really good players and at times indispensable players that helped teams win titles. Jason Terry on the 2011 Mavericks, Boris Diaw on the 2014 Spurs, etc.
I'm just not sure the rest of his resume screams "Hall of Famer!" to make the title the swing vote.
Rafferty: It certainly helps. I mean, Terry and Diaw never made an All-Star or All-NBA team. They're not the same calibre of players.
Adams: That's fair. Lowry is on a different level than those guys. Five All-Star teams is nothing to scoff at.
McGregor: I'd say it's what puts him over the top.
Add him being an integral part of a championship team - and leading scorer in a title clincher - to the All-Star appearances and All-NBA nods Scott mentioned, and you've got your case.
I'm sure being a gold medalist helps, too.
Adams: The one All-NBA nod speaks volumes to me. Over the course of a 13-year career, he's essentially been a top-15 player once.
And five All-Stars? That doesn't exactly guarantee a trip to Springfield. There's plenty of guys with at least that many not in the hall.
McGregor: While true, I also think that speaks to the calibre of guards he's had to contend with for those spots. Steph Curry, Chris Paul and James Harden are three perennial All-NBA guys that are some of the best to ever lace them up.
That pretty much leaves three spots for the Lillards, Westbrooks and Klay Thompsons of the world. Tough to get the nod in that case.
And hey, we just saw four-time All-Star Mo Cheeks get inducted last year. It could happen.
Adams: Totally valid. He's definitely come into his own at a time of unprecedented guard play.
They're also all in the West. Look I don't mean to diminish the All-Star selections either, but making it five straight years in the East is a little different than five straight in the West. Just ask Lillard himself, who for years couldn't work his way into that mix.
Rafferty: Here's a fun question: Per Reddit, Lowry is one of eight players who have been an All-Star in each of the last five seasons. Can you name the other seven?
McGregor: I'm gonna guess one's named LeBron James.
Adams: Curry. Durant. Harden. Westbrook. Kyrie?
Rafferty: Yes to Curry, Durant, Harden, Westbrook and AD, no to Kyrie. One more player.
The last one is Klay Thompson.
Adams: That's pretty good company.
Rafferty: I think that speaks to how consistent he's been over the last five years.
Adams: Here's another question: Does one championship completely erase years of postseason underachievement?
Rafferty: Lowry hasn't been nearly as bad in the playoffs as he's often made out to be.
Adams: While I agree that he hasn't been nearly as bad as it's made out to be on the whole, "not as bad" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for the Hall of Fame.
McGregor: There have been some … forgettable moments. In a way, though, I think if you subscribe to the notion that he's been that bad in the playoffs, it adds to the narrative, this year being the perfect example.
First game he goes scoreless, Raps lose.
Final game he sets the tone, scores 26, hoists the Larry OB.
I won't call it a redemption narrative, but in a way it kinda just comes full circle in a poetic way.
Adams: For what it's worth, Basketball-Reference.com 's Hall of Fame probability for Lowry rose from 45% to 65% thanks to that title.
We could do this with other guys I'm sure, but if Kawhi Leonard's shot in Game 7 doesn't go in, we're not even remotely having this conversation, right?
He shot 4-for-13 in that game and by and large, had a fairly forgettable series ... again.
Rafferty: But as you said, you could do that with so many other players. There are tons of players in NBA history whose Hall of Fame candidacy benefits from winning a championship. So I'm not really sure if we can hold that against him.
Adams: That's fair.
McGregor: Personally, had that shot not gone in, I probably would have said no to Lowry's HOF case (for now) and that he'd need a title to make it legitimate. I truly saw him on the cusp leading into this past season.
Adams: I just think it's interesting that his Hall of Fame pedigree hinges on a moment that was entirely out of his control in a game in which he himself didn't play well.
Rafferty: It's almost like basketball is a team sport.
Rafferty: Also, not to be cliche, but there's a lot more to Lowry than scoring.
He's long been one of the best defenders at his position, he's been the heart and soul of the Raptors since joining the team and he's coming off of a season in which he averaged a career-best 8.7 assists per game, which ranked third in the league.
Lowry really is one of those players that you have to watch closely to fully appreciate his game.
Adams: That last point is perhaps truer for Lowry than any other active Hall of Fame contender.
Case in point? That same Game 7 I mentioned earlier...
This is the ultimate Kyle Lowry game.- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) May 13, 2019
Dude is a Real Plus-Minus Star every year.
If 30 years from now someone asks for a description of Lowry's game, pull this game up from YouTube. https://t.co/n45WQC3RfZ
He does so many little things that go so far beyond the basic box score. I do have an appreciation for that, 100%. But I think that speaks more to my own basketball nerd-dom than it does a case for the Hall of Fame.
It's not the Hall of "does a bunch of little things to win games that go underappreciated."
McGregor: True, however, with him, I kind of put "does a bunch of little things to win games that go underappreciated" right there as an accolade in a way…
I mean, we credit guys for their motor, work ethic and things of that nature all the time. I think that's aligned with things like that. He's elite at those little things.
Adams: He's a hard-nosed competitor and works his tail off. I love that about him. I just don't know if that gets him into the Hall of Fame.
I want to return to the All-Star streak for a moment, though, because I think it's important.
There's no denying he's been one of the NBA's most consistent regular season players going on over a half decade. And I'm not putting "all-or-nothing" stock into this stat because it's just one stat, which in the grand scheme of things means nothing, but I do think it can illustrate a larger point.
Over the last six seasons, which includes the year prior to making his first All-Star team, Lowry ranks 11th in Win Shares. To me, that feels about right.
Over the previous eight seasons of his career, he ranks 84th.
Those first years have to matter, right?
That's over half of his career where he's a good, solid player but not close to an All-Star calibre type or someone significantly contributing in the playoffs.
Rafferty: That's fair - he's a late bloomer. And while I do think parts of his game will age well, he did take a sizable step back as a scorer last season, which could be the first step towards a decline as he enters his mid-30s.
Even so, I think he's played at a high enough level for long enough to have a legitimate Hall of Fame case.
MORE: How Lowry can adapt for a new Raptors era
McGregor: I think the addition of Kawhi and the emergence of Pascal Siakam last season made it okay for Lowry to take a step back as a scorer.
We saw what he's still capable of as a scorer during moments in the playoffs. See: Game 1 of the ECF and Game 6 of the Finals, and both while dealing with an injury.
Sure, he's 33 now, but he also should be healthy this season and I can see him putting forth yet another respectable season in a contract year.
Maybe that can win Micah over on the Hall of Fame argument.
Adams: I will say ... Kyle Lowry's book is far from finished. Who knows what the future holds, just know that as new information becomes available over the final years of his career, I reserve my right to change my mind.
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