K.L.O.E. Kyle Lowry Over Everything.
If you’re a Raptors fan, you’re definitely familiar with this acronym. As the heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors for the last 8 years, Kyle Lowry has cemented himself as the Raptors GOAT.
From changing the culture of the franchise to being the centre of a perennial playoff contender to an NBA Champion, Kyle Lowry has been through it all with the Raptors.
In this piece I wanted to look at the subtle parts of Lowry’s game that has allowed him to become a 6-time NBA All-Star in Toronto. After watching Kyle Lowry for years, the one thing that continually stands out to me is his positional awareness and IQ on the floor.
It’s a subtle thing but it’s been one of the key reasons Kyle Lowry has blossomed in Toronto and maintained his all-star level of play into his mid-30s.
This is probably the most obvious place where Lowry’s positional IQ shines. Year in and year out, Lowry is among the league leaders in charges taken and it’s thanks to his positional awareness on the court and his willingness to sacrifice his body for a win.
In 52 games this season, he’s drawn a league leading 30 charges and over the past three seasons, Lowry’s finished 1st, 6th and 1st in charges drawn. He even took 2 (should’ve been 3) charges in the 2020 All-Star game.
When looking through the film, it’s easy to see why Lowry is a league leader in charges drawn year in and year out.
Unlike most NBA players, he just has an innate instinct to see when opposing players have put their head down on drives. That’s when Lowry slides into position and takes the hit, drawing the offensive foul.
On this fast break, Lowry starts out on the other side of the court as Murray drives with a full head of steam. Check out the IQ and positional awareness from Lowry as he anticipates where Murray wants to go, beats Murray to the spot and gives him no chance to get out of the way.
Again, just more anticipation from Lowry.
He’s guarding Bledsoe in the corner and with the way he was shooting in the series, Lowry was content to leave him and rotate over the help out VanVleet.
Lowry has this knack to get to the spot perfectly on time, not too early so the opposing player can avoid the charge and not too late that he gets called for the foul. That timing is on display here as Lowry steps in and takes another charge.
This time Lowry’s already in position as Lebron barrels into the lane.
The majority of NBA players would get out of the way when Lebron is coming straight towards them, but not Kyle Lowry. Honestly, I think Lebron was caught a little off guard when he sees Lowry take the charge on him.
But that’s the grit and toughness that Lowry plays with and it’s what made him so endearing to Toronto.
This next sequence is just insane from Lowry.
He’s denying Butler off ball and has his whole body turned away from the ball. I can’t think of another play that would showcase Lowry’s instincts and positional awareness better than this one.
He turns around at just the right time and takes the charge against Simmons who had no chance adjusting.
If you wanted to see what doing anything for your team meant just check out this defensive possession where Lowry attempts to take two charges. He didn’t get the call on either but it’s this type of fearless hustle that Lowry plays with that makes him the undeniable leader of one of the best teams in the league.
Another area of the game where Lowry’s positional awareness shines is in transition. While he often records assists in these transition opportunities, it’s what Lowry does before or after he passes the ball that is so impactful.
On this sequence from the finals, the Raptors have numbers in a 3-on-1 fast break. With Leonard just a few strides out of position, Lowry elects to pitch the ball back to Siakam. Once he passes the ball, he seeks out Green and cuts him off without making contact.
In a way Lowry walking in front of Green serves as a screen. It blocks Green’s line of vision, giving him less time to react to a full-speed Siakam, and it forces Green to change his trajectory, just like a screen.
It’s brilliant how Lowry is able to accomplish this without making any contact.
Here’s another time where Lowry’s positional awareness shines in transition. Often when Lowry’s leading the charge in transition, he’s looking to pass to one of his teammates.
Here he drops it back for Siakam again and watch as he finishes running his lane by running right in front of Robinson. Lowry cuts off Robinson and forces him to maneuver around him. That split second of movement leaves Robinson out of position and gives Siakam an easy layup.
This time, after giving it to Kawhi, Lowry sticks his arm out and makes contact with Giannis as Giannis tries to contest Kawhi’s dunk attempt. You could argue that Lowry fouled Giannis on the play, but with how physical this game was, I had a hard time seeing the officials making that call.
Nonetheless, Lowry’s positional awareness and IQ helped give the Raptors an exclamation point on a 26-3 run in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lowry’s been doing this type of “screening” for years. 6 years ago, he pulled of the same thing, this time with Demar DeRozan. It’s a subtle thing that Lowry does to give his team the advantage, while at the same time toeing the line with what’s legal in the NBA.
One last sequence where Lowry’s positional awareness and IQ pays dividends for the Raptors. This time it comes in the form of a screen which gives DeRozan a runway for a vicious poster over Tolliver.
While point guards setting screens is nothing special, it’s the way Lowry was able to occupy two Pistons defenders all by himself that sets this particular play a part.
Though his game may not be the prettiest or the flashiest, if you want to build a winning culture, Lowry is on the shortlist of point guards you want to lead your team.
His positional awareness and basketball IQ allow Lowry to have such a high level impact on the floor, even when he’s having an off night shooting. Lowry will do anything on the court that will help his team win and for that you have to respect him.