Kyle Lowry Should Be a Lock for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team
NBA fans and aficionados very frequently overlook Kyle Lowry as an A-level NBA player and a top point guard in the Eastern Conference. In all honesty, you can include me among them.
It could be because he plays for the only NBA team based in Canada. Or if it's a product of his weight issues and the fact that he wasn't a top-10 selection coming out of college. Whatever the case may be, we don't give Lowry enough credit.
The same can be said for All-Star voters thus far. In the first returns of the fan vote, Lowry (128,940) trails five other Eastern Conference guards in votes. Those players are: Kyrie Irving (543,030), Dwyane Wade (278,052), Isaiah Thomas (193,297), Derrick Rose (129,924) and teammate DeMar DeRozan (253,340).
That's disrespectful, and here's why.
A Whole New Level
This offseason, the Raptors' floor general decided he needed to transform his body in order to improve his game. And after losing 15 pounds, he's done just that.
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Lowry's assist numbers have remained rather constant, at 7.1, 6.2 and 6.9 per-36 over the last three seasons, but his scoring has improved in a big way.
It's not the output itself -- he's only putting up one more point per 36 minutes. His shooting percentages and efficiency numbers are more telling.
Lowry's field goal percentage of 47.5%, effective field goal percentage of 58.7% and true shooting percentage of 64.1% are all career-highs by at least 4%. He's converting at a much higher rate just about everywhere on the court, but he's been a new man from behind the arc.
A year ago, Lowry was above league-average in all but one area beyond the three-point line. The one where he was below league-average was by a measly 0.7%. He finished the season with 2.8 three-pointers per game on 38.8% shooting from range.
Now, the shot charts look similar, until you get to the corners, where Lowry has struggled. However, he's improved on his percentages from the other three areas. From the right wing, he's shooting above the NBA average by 3.3% and by 16.8% from the middle of the the three-point arc.
Lowry has been an effective three-point shooter off the catch, but this year he's polished his pull-up jumper. Compared to 31% on pull-up threes in last year's campaign, Lowry has made a leap of 11.3%, to 42.3% shooting on threes off the dribble.
As a matter of fact, the transition from dribbling to shooting seems like it's been an area of emphasis this past offseason. From last year to this year on three-point attempts off seven or more dribbles, the 10-year pro is hitting 0.4 more threes on a percentage of 47.9% -- 23.6% better than last season.
The Beast of the East
As a product of Lowry's maturation in both shooting and scoring, he's posting career-highs across advanced analytic categories.
To this point, he's exceeded his previous bests in player efficiency rating, win shares per 48 minutes and box plus-minus. As for our own metric, nERD -- which is a measure of a player's total contribution over the course of a season by efficiency -- Lowry is also on pace to surpass his personal-best. If he continues adding to his 7.8 total, he'll end up with a 16.8 nERD by season's end.
How does he compare to the other top guards in the East, though? Most notably, the ones ahead of him in All-Star voting?
Compared to the three point guards ahead of him -- Irving, Thomas and Rose -- Lowry's the single best point guard in the East (unless you throw Giannis Antetokounmpo in the conversation). Thomas is the only one even close and Rose shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as Lowry for obvious reasons, as he fizzles out in New York.
The same can be said for Wade, who's clearly winning by popularity. And it seems like many voters are falling victim to DeRozan's hot start, because Lowry -- by nERD and many other measures -- has been the best player in Toronto through 38 games.
Setting aside the teammate-versus-teammate talk, Lowry, according to our power rankings, is the eighth-best player in the league and third overall in the East.
Let's get him to New Orleans. He deserves it.