Kyle Lowry's Injury Doesn't Matter So Long As He Returns for the Playoffs
The team hopes he can return for the playoffs, meaning he could miss time in the postseason or that he could return to play some games prior to the postseason.
But even with the way they have been playing recently, the Raps can afford losing Lowry right now -- provided he returns for the playoffs. Here's why.
From the start of the season until New Year's Day, the Raptors had the 2nd-best offensive rating (113.5), the 15th-best defensive rating (104.9), and the 2nd best net rating (8.6) in the NBA.
In other words, they were the second-best team in the NBA on a per-100-possession basis, behind only the massive favorites to win the Finals: the Golden State Warriors.
But since the calendar flipped to 2017, their marks have declined. They've posted a 108.2 offensive rating and a 107.8 defensive rating for a net rating of just 0.3. Those rank 12th, 18th, and 13th, respectively, in the NBA, and the Raps have gone just 13-14, the 18th-best winning percentage in the Association, in 2017.
They now sit fourth in the Eastern Conference at 35-24 and simply haven't been the same team in recent weeks, but they did make a deadline deal for Serge Ibaka to try to right the ship.
Unfortunately, losing Lowry is only going to exacerbate their recent struggles.
Lowry's On-Court Impact
According to Basketball-Reference, the Raptors have posted an offensive rating of 116.3 with Lowry on the court for 2,110 minutes this season. That would rank just 0.2 points per 100 possessions behind the Warriors as the best offense in the NBA as a standalone offense.
With Lowry on the bench, Toronto has posted an offensive rating of 106.9, below the league average of 108.6 and a difference of 9.4 points per 100 possessions.
Their pace jumps from 93.5 per 48 minutes to 98.8 without him, though, but the dip in effective field goal percentage from 53.0% to 48.9% with Lowry on the bench doesn't make up for the extra possessions they get with Cory Joseph running the offense.
Defensively, the team struggles more, as well. Their defensive rating is 108.2, roughly league average, with Lowry at the point but 111.5 without him. In all, the team is 12.7 points worse per 100 possessions without Lowry on the court.
This all sounds bad, right?
Well, according to our algorithms, the Raptors -- before the injury -- were expected to finish 48.6-33.4 by season's end. Along with that, they had a 10.0% chance to win the Finals, just ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 9.8% and comfortably ahead of the Boston Celtics' 3.2% chance.
Assuming Lowry misses the rest of the regular season, our algorithms project the Raptors to finish 48.1-33.9, nearly the same record as if they had Lowry. After all, it's just 23 more games, and this is one of the best teams in the NBA.
And given that, they still have a 9.4% chance to win the Finals if Lowry returns at the start of the postseason. By comparison, the Cavaliers own an 8.8% chance in this scenario, and the Celtics sit at 3.7%.
So long as Lowry is ready for crunch time, the Raptors -- mathematically -- are fine. Meshing with Ibaka is another story, of course.