The Most Underrated Player in the NBA Today

(Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports)

(Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports)

There is always an ongoing debate about the best point guards of the league. We have seen an increase in great guard play over the last 6 or so years and they are for the most part the ones with the greatest responsibility on the team. The point guards are expected to keep the offense flowing. All of these guards have their own way of doing it. Steph Curry uses his gravitational pull off of screens to get others open, Westbrook uses his aggressive style in attacking the rim to collapse the defense, and there are many more examples of different styles. There is no longer a “true” point guard style in the way there use to be. A players like Rajon Rondo which before was considered the prototype “true” point guard, has struggled lately to be effective on teams the last 3 years. Everyone has their own flavor of how to play the position and there is one who brings so many attributes to the table that is getting overlooked.

Kyle Lowry is that man. His per game numbers have been looking great averaging 23.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and all while shooting at an extremely efficient 62.9%TS. Not only are his per game numbers at a very high level, but his team has won 60.4% of their games so far and are 3.5 games out of the #1 seed. So, why is he not being talked about?

Lowry plays with another all-star caliber player who has hit another level in his career in Demar DeRozan who is averaging 27.8 points a game this season. Generally the higher volume scorer, especially in a market like Toronto, is the one that garners the little attention the team receives from the national media. Therefore, Kyle Lowry’s outstanding season is constantly being overlooked by the flashier and higher volume scorer.

Many seem to think of Lowry as a 2nd or 3rd tier point guard. They put him with guys like Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe, and so on. If you go into a barbershop in America and say Lowry is in the same class as the Isaiah Thomas, Lillard, and Kyries of the world you would be scoffed at. Contrary to the popular perception you could easily make the case that Lowry is the 5th best point guard in the league behind Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul. Yes going off of the season so far you could and I would make the argument that Lowry is better this season than Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Isaiah Thomas.

Now why would I say that? Let’s look at everything they bring to the table. Isaiah Thomas is the most clutch player in the league this season. He is averaging 10.7 points in the 4th quarter alone and in clutch time is shooting an insanely efficient 68%TS. He keeps the offense moving, but when the offense gets stagnant and cannot find a good shot he is more than capable and willing to take and make the shot. He is in the 92nd percentile in isolations and his team is currently 2nd seed in the east, but there is one issue. The defense of the team falls apart whenever Isaiah is in the lineup going from the best defense in the league with a defensive rating of 101.7 to the absolute worst with him on the floor 113.3. He is simply too small on defense and it severely hurts his team. The team is not better off if they did not have him, but it is telling when the difference in play of the team goes from worst to best with the simple substitution of a single player.

Kyrie Irving is a guy who is not actually expected to run the offense often as he plays alongside the person many to believe to be the 2nd greatest basketball player to ever step foot onto the hardwood. With that being said Kyrie is an offensive master. There is little a single defender can do to stop Kyrie to getting wherever he wants on the court with his wide array of moves and finishes at the rim. He is not a one-dimensional player in any sense though scoring wise as he is one of the best midrange shooters in the game along with shooting 39.2% from 3 point land. He is incredibly lazy on defense. He has the least amount of potential assists of the guards being evaluated and in the clutch despite popular belief has struggled. He is shooting 46.6%TS (This is not a typo) in clutch time this season which is the least of anyone else as well.

Damian Lillard is struggling this year and his defensive woes of the years past continue to haunt him. He seems to not care for defense once so ever and anytime he seemingly tries to his lateral movement just is not there. His passing numbers are the lowest they have been in his career outside of his sophomore year. He’s solid in PnRs (3rd out of the 5) and 2nd in ISOs. He’s shooting at a career high efficiency and career high of volume, but his team is currently 22-30 barely holding onto the 8th seed with no hope of rising higher than that. With him on the floor his team’s defensive rating drops to a 113.2. This season he is lacking the impact he had years prior and has the ball in his hands more than ever before.

John Wall is a maestro with the ball in his hands. He makes the most out of the little he has and despite his struggles to score in general he boasts a 57.7%TS in the clutch and so far this year his team has been the best team in the east since Christmas. He is obviously the best player of the bunch when it comes to running an offense and despite what the numbers say on PnRs I would argue he does a better job than the rest throughout his career due to the lack of spacing he has had the last few years. He’s never had a good stretch 4 for most of his career and Bradley Beal has been riddled with injuries for most of their time together. Wall has taken a step back defensively since his 2014-15 season where he was arguably one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. His team pretty much keeps up the same defensive production with him on and off the court with only a 0.2 difference with him on the floor. When it comes to transition, PnR, ISOs, etc. he is easily the worst of everyone here. He is more prone to have those 4 for 17 days than anyone else here. He also turns over the ball at an alarming rate of 4.2 times a game.

Now we get to Kyle Lowry. Kyle Lowry’s impact is felt everywhere on the floor. Of all guards this year he has the 7th highest rebound percentage of guards (includes shooting guards) that have started in at least 40 games this season. He is the 2nd best passer of this group. In the clutch the only guard who has scored more efficiently is the King of the Fourth himself. Lowry is putting forth a 59.3%TS in clutch time. His team is 10.6 points better offensively with him on the floor and 4.3 points defensively. Lowry is in the 94.1 percentile on PnRs, 95.6 on spot ups, 74.7 on ISOs, and 67.3 in transition. If we were to rank those compared to the other guards here he would rank 1st on PnRs, 1st on spot ups, 4th on ISOs, and 3rd in transition. No one has been as efficient as Lowry scoring wise and is the most efficient player at simply running the offense. He is not the defensive liability Kyrie and Isaiah are to their teams, and hell, you could argue he is the most impactful defender to his own team as the Wizards see minimal drop off when Wall sits.

Lowry is leading one of the best lineups in the league and it does not even include the 2nd or 3rd best player on the team. Among lineups that have played at least 25 games and accumulated at least 100 minutes the 5th best lineup in the league consists of Kyle Lowry-Cory Joseph-Terrence Ross-Patrick Patterson-Lucas Nogueira. When Lowry sits every facet of the Raptors falls. They rebound at a lower rate, efficiency falls off a cliff, ball movement falls apart and many other aspects. The only players in the history of the game to put up at least 23 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds a game with scoring efficiency at 60%TS are, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry, and Kyle Lowry. Lowry is also averaging the least amount of turnovers of anyone to ever have a season like this. Five of these players are top 10 players of all time, Curry is a back to back MVP who led his team to back to back finals appearances, Harden is likely to win MVP this year, and then there is the most underrated player today just off to the side putting together a historically great season, Kyle Lowry.

The media and players are not giving enough praise to a player who has been having a historic year from an efficiency standpoint and is currently sitting at the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. It is time for people to take notice and realize that Kyle Lowry this year has surpassed all of these other point guards and sits firmly in as the 5th best point guard in the league right behind the surefire first ballot Hall of Fame players.

All of these stats are correct as of 2/5/17 from stats.nba.com and basketball-reference.com. 

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