In late September 2019, Kyle Lowry sat at the podium at Scotiabank Arena and made his mission clear ahead of the 2019-20 season: "Another championship."
A lofty expectation, to say the least.
In addition to the turnover on the Raptors roster, Lowry was now 33 and recovering from surgery on the injured left thumb that kept him out of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. With all that in play, it was safe to assume it wouldn't be an ideal start to the season, right? Wrong.
Through the first seven games of the season, Lowry would help lead Toronto to a 5-2 record with averages of 24.0 points, 6.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.9% from the field.
MORE: Lowry's hot start highlighted first 10 games of 2019-20
In Game 8 of the regular season, the injury bug would bite again, and Lowry would be sidelined for nearly a month as he nursed a fractured left thumb. Initially, upon his return, Lowry's timing was off but his aggression was still present as ever; this aggression expedited his return to form and has been one of the most important contributing factors to what he's brought to the Raptors all season.
The end of January was a big period in time for Lowry this season as he became the Raptors' all-time leader in career assists, surpassing his former teammate in Jose Calderon.
Assist number 3771 for @Klow7 pic.twitter.com/BYa25pz0Fc- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 29, 2020
Days later, he earned his sixth-straight All-Star selection after averaging 19.6 points, 7.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds through 38 games. With six selections to his name, North Philly's finest had now represented the Raptors on the All-Star stage more than any other player in the franchise's 25-year history.
He represented well there, too.
During one of the most entertaining All-Star Games in recent memory, Lowry shined in the most Lowry way possible, as our Scott Rafferty outlined perfectly back in February. This drive and competitive nature in an exhibition exemplified Lowry's willingness to do whatever it takes to win, a trait that clearly carries over into his play with the Raptors.
Oftentimes players speak on the idea of doing "whatever it takes" to the point in which it almost sounds cliché, but Lowry is the type that says it and then backs his words up with his play each time he steps on the floor. His actions speak much much louder than any words could ever do justice, and if you need a stat to back that, his 34 drawn charges are the most in the league.
More recently, a number of Lowry's teammates - current and former - from DeMar DeRozan to Serge Ibaka, have made it clear that Lowry deserves the title of greatest Raptor of all-time, a testament to the body of work he's sustained through his eight seasons in a Raptors uniform.
MORE: Kyle Lowry is a basketball chameleon
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for the overall success in his career and the Raptors' successes this season is Lowry's willingness to adapt. After taking a step back to allow Kawhi Leonard to thrive offensively in the 2018-19 season, Lowry has stepped up into a larger role as a scorer this season, averaging 19.4 points, up 5.2 points from last season. And while his assists are down from last year's 8.7 per game, his 7.5 per contest are still the second-most in his 14-year career.
Lowry is also tied with Pascal Siakam as the league's fifth-leading scorer in transition (5.8 points per game) behind only Bradley Beal, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That the Raptors have the league's top-scoring offence in transition only adds to the impact of what Lowry does, showing how his tendency to get out in the open has helped this team establish an identity.
The above is all a part of the case that I outlined for Lowry to make an All-NBA Team this season. When you take a look at numbers and impact, there haven't been six more guards with a more important role on a team with comparable success to this year's Raptors, who were 46-18 at the time of the season's suspension, making Lowry's late-September assertion much more realistic than lofty.
Taking in his complete body of work, adaptability to any situation and impact on this franchise, Lowry is more than deserving of an exemplary grade.
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