Alright, so since the Lockout is going to cause us to grind to nearly a halt I figured I’d take up one of the suggestions in the mailbag. A great deal of thanks to the submissions received there by the way. My Evidence final is over, my time has opened up, and you’ll get some time for me to actually contribute these articles and spark some discussion. So I hope you enjoy this series in player evaluations.
The criteria used for handing out grades are weighted as such: Offensive Production (25%), Defensive Production (25%), Development (20%), Impact (15%), and Potential (15%). I’m using percentages but really I’m just firing from the hip when I hand out a final grade. People love percentages though. Grades are based partially on player comparisons and partially on the player as it pertains to only Houston.
Kyle Lowry was the big success story from last season. Report cards will be going from the 1 position down to the 5 with an emphasis on starters then back ups at each position. So, let’s see what I saw/felt of Kyle Lowry from this season.
Kyle put up averages of 13.5PPG, 6.7 APG, and 4.1 RPG. Offensively he gave us the ball handler and distributor you like to see out of the point guard. For comparison’s sake let’s look at the production of the NBA’s favorite point guard, Chris Paul. 15.9PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.0 RPG. What we see in comparison to Lowry is a not so drastic bump in assists (if we round, only 3 per game, not as tough to achieve as it sounds) and about 2 more points per game. Kyle’s stats are not that far off from one of the best in the game, and that’s not considering solely second half play. The comparison is mostly to give fans some perspective on what Kyle actually offers and where he’s at in only his 5th year.
For me, Kyle has shown that he’s your prototypical point guard when you factor in the year. If you factor in the second half he was charging towards elite status. Given this ability to elevate his game I am going to offer him a grade that allows room for improvement but won’t punish him for not being Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Kyle can solidify a higher grade next season by proving to me that post All-Star break performance wasn’t an aberration.
Defensive production is one of those wonderful metrics where you wind up having to overstate or understate a player’s performance. When it comes to defense we can look at steals, blocks, and boards but is that really a fair metric? When a player disrupts a play, gets a hand on a ball, manages to knock the ball out and force the offense to break rhythm, or otherwise impacts a play on defense they don’t tend to keep that stat easily available (Read: I don’t want to be bothered to check). So for Kyle, I will parrot out some basic stats and then some rhetoric. Kyle averaged 1.4 steals per game and .3 blocks per game. I think his .3 blocks per game puts him near the top of our blocked shots leader for this last season. Try reading that last line without dying a little on the inside.
OK, so Kyle was able to pick up 1.4 steals per game, for a point guard that’s none too shabby. We like to applaud players in the NBA as elite ball hawks when we see something like 2.4 or so (I’m looking at you Chris Paul). So what I’m seeing in that is that Kyle’s raw defensive prowess in steals is pretty sexy. It’s also appropriate to mention here that Kyle is built like a house. Strength is a factor on defense if you’re not going to be the quickest. Kyle combines them both with a big frame that can be a pain to handle and navigate. I know as a guy built like a linebacker that you can have a grace about you but no one is going to notice it when you’re up to speed. We call him a bulldog for a reason and after this season when he didn’t drive to the hoop as often it was more for his defensive tenacity and large jowls.
This is where it gets tricky to separate from impact but for Kyle it’s not so bad. Kyle’s production last year was quality back up production. His development this season is going to be drastic. 9.1 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.6 RPG in 24 minutes a night as a back up was pretty nice. He tacked on ten minutes per game as a starter for 71 games and wound up adding 4 points, 2 assists, and half a rebound per game to his total. So for ten minutes, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more by way of assists but ya know what? It’s pretty damn good as it is. I’m hoping Kyle’s ferocious second half play will maintain but his responsibilities, expectations, and role increased in a huge way and to handle it as well as he did off the heel of an injury, I like it. He started off the season tentative due to the injury and we saw the impact, a bad jumper he relied on too much. As he came around he pushed through it and showed us why he wanted to be a starter in this league. Perhaps the greatest indicator of this was the development of his three point shot. Early in the season teams could cheat in on Scola and try to key in on Martin. Thankfully Lowry elevated his three point percentage to 37% on the season, higher in the second half, as most of his stats were. But what this gave us was a guard who could keep defenses honest. The loss of Aaron Brooks was particularly critical for Lowry to develop a three point shot.
This grade will again allow room for improvement heading into next season because I don’t want to declare him fully developed just yet.
Here lies Kyle’s best grade in my eyes. Much like my feelings in school that when I hit up mock trial or trial advocacy that there will be an A, you had to assume when you read Kyle Lowry and Impact an A would be sitting there waiting for him. Why the confidence? If all your strengths or capabilities and results lend themselves well to success in one particular area, you’re sitting pretty. Kyle entered the year as the presumed backup and then sprained ankles spread throughout the team likes venereal diseases in a brothel. Kyle suffered but fortunately he got his shot of penicillin and returned to action (Let me know when this comparison wears thin). He hit the floor and was a bit slow to work the rust off but once you get positions down they’re hard to forget. He came back with a vengeance when he was healthy and unseated incumbent starter Aaron Brooks and his ankle, which I assumed exploded given how he never really recovered.
Kyle’s emergence allowed the team to focus on flow of offense, removed primary scoring from the point guard and placed the emphasis on the shooting guard and power forward position, allowed some more flexibility in the half court sets due to defensive prowess, and really changed the prospects of this team going forward. What we now have in our hands for a young rebuilding team is a point guard who showed in the second half he could hang with elite guards and provide a reliable shooting touch. This further emphasizes Kyle’s impact in that he supplanted Brooks (With better distribution and eventually a reliable three pointer), changed the offense away from run and gun (as the only option), and gave us flexibility for rebuilding. Kyle enabled the acquisition of Goran Dragic, which had a huge impact for this squad.
Only a douchebag could give Kyle anything less than an A + here.
This section will be like a midget rolling in sugar, short and sweet. Kyle has shown a huge burst in development and that’s to be expected changing roles like he did. Your minutes and importance shoot up. What made it more interesting was the tentative growth process within the season. We saw a stumble at the beginning, some mediocrity in the middle, and then a hellish flurry at the end. Teams weren’t mailing it in when Kyle turned it on and further, Kyle was aggressively pursuing his improvement and that increase in quality. So when I look at it, the second half of the season provides the most promise but it’s guarded optimism. I think of rookie flashes of brilliance in their first season being mostly contingent on lack of scouting. It’s why Chase did so well last season, increased roles with no frame of reference. I can’t in good conscience give him anything less than a B and I’ve got some guarded optimism.
Overall Grade: B+/A-
Kyle’s in that range where we have a very strong player and if he cashes in on his potential to develop and shows me consistent play closer to what he gave us in the second half of the season I'm willing to call him an A or A+ elite point guard.