As the dust settles from the Toronto Raptors' first championship, we're rolling out our Raptors Report Cards on each key member of the team from this past season. Before turning the page into the 2019-20 season as free agency begins, we'll take a closer look back at how everyone performed in 2018-19.
One word to describe Kyle Lowry's season: vindication.
It's hard to remember how we got to this point with Lowry after the way his season started, or really his offseason. The trade that sent his best friend DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio shook Lowry in a big way, with him telling ESPN's Rachel Nichols in December that he "felt some type of way on the personal side."
But as the preseason started, Lowry showed up where it mattered most - on the court and in the locker room for his teammates.
Lowry took Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green under his wing as the team captain. He built a solid relationship with Nick Nurse, sending the message to the rest of the team that despite what others may have felt about Dwane Casey, Nurse was the guy now.
It wasn't always easy, but Lowry was still able to maintain an All-Star level of play, as the coaches voted him to his fifth straight All-Star game, tying Vince Carter and Chris Bosh for the most All-Star appearances from a Raptor.
MORE GRADES: Kawhi Leonard | Fred VanVleet | Serge Ibaka | Nick Nurse
Some of his other regular season highlights?
- Going 5-for-6 from three on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers en-route to a 27-point performance
- A 21-point, 17-assist, 13-rebound triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks
- A 21-point, 15-assist night in Los Angeles as the Raptors blow out LeBron James and the Lakers in probably their most impressive offensive night of the season
Lowry's averages of 14.2 points, 8.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds were his lowest since his first season with the Raptors.
With the emergence of Pascal Siakam and arrival of Leonard, his numbers naturally took a hit. However, he still managed to score 20 or more points 15 times this season. 26 times he managed to finish the game with double-digit assists.
Fred VanVleet also stepping up and being a key component to the Raptors' success saw Lowry's minutes dip. The 32-year-old played 34.0 minutes per game - his second-lowest mark over the last five years - going over 40 minutes only seven times.
Had Toronto's season end in May, Lowry's grade would've been a B. But in the playoffs, Lowry elevated his game to another level.
Some of the highlights include:
- 22 points on 62% shooting from the field after failing to score a single point in Game 1 of the first round against the Orlando Magic
- Carrying the Raptors with 30 points and eight rebounds in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks
- Averaging 19.3 points, 8.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds on 48% shooting in the final four games of the NBA Finals to help Toronto capture its first-ever championship
Lowry has long been a punching bag for many Raptors diehards. He'd become the scapegoat whenever the team failed to reach expectations.
But for the few that stood in Lowry's corner, the 2019 playoff run specifically was validation. Validation that Lowry could get to another level. Validation that Lowry would sacrifice more than 99.9% of the NBA for a victory. Validation that with Lowry as the leader, a team can achieve their ultimate goal.
Six years ago no one saw this version of Lowry coming, and now that he's here we can only wonder where he'll go next. Does he have another run like 2019 in him? Can he make another All-Star team? Is he good enough defensively to make an All-Defensive team or consistent enough to make All-NBA?
Those are all questions we can answer another time. For now, let's give Lowry the credit he deserves for a great season and an incredible playoff run.
His grade is an A+ - vindication.
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