Kyle Lowry has gotten off to a seemingly rocky start this season, posting near career lows in points, shooting percentages, and free-throw rates. Through Toronto's first 11 games, Lowry has averaged just under 13 points per game on roughly 33 percent shooting from deep. He's attempted less than two free-throws per game as well.
Most people seem to think that Lowry is having some difficulty modifying his game to adapt to Toronto's new, liberalized offensive scheme. Lowry admitted as much in an interview with Doug Smith, stating that he's trying to operate within this new offence and is having a bit of difficulty working off-the-ball. They're looking to take the ball out of Lowry's hands to try and facilitate ball-movement. Accordingly, his usage rate has dropped from roughly 25 percent to 20 percent, and his touches have dropped from roughly 85 per game to about 71.
Interestingly though, the Raptors haven't struggled all that much. Of their first 11 games, the Raptors won seven and lost only four, while also boasting one of the best offensive ratings in the league. They trailed only the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in offensive rating.
So even though Lowry has been criticized for his less-than-stellar start, his team has still been able to perform at a high-level. Some of this is attributable to strong bench play, but the rest of it is likely attributable to the fact that Lowry has been playing almost exactly how the Toronto Raptors need him to play.
Despite his numbers thus far, Lowry has been doing everything necessary to make sure that Toronto's new, movement-heavy offence thrives. He's sacrificed his minutes and his touches, yet he's managed to maintain his assist rate. He's done more with less to ensure an increasingly equitable scoring distribution, which is important as the two-pronged Lowry-DeRozan strategy used in prior years has consistently been shut down in the post-season.
By Lowry monopolizing less of Toronto's offensive sets, nearly all of Toronto's remaining role players from last year have been able to increase their scoring averages. Lowry's sacrifice in terms of touches and shot attempts means that the Raptors have become more flexible in how they score the ball.
While Lowry is struggling to hit his shot, it should be noted that he hasn't struggled anymore than usual. In fact, Lowry shot worse through the first 11 games of the 2016-2017 season than he did through the first 11 games of the 2017-2018 season. Once Lowry starts knocking down his shots at a relatively normal clip within the flow of Toronto's offence, he'll set himself up for consideration as one of the more efficient point guards in the NBA, a guy who doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.
He's already done as much in Toronto's most recent game against the Boston Celtics. While the Raptors lost 95 to 94, bringing their record to seven and five, Lowry racked up 19 points on five-of-10 shooting. He also got seven assists and nearly everything came within the flow of the offence.
It's important to recognize that the reason for Lowry's poor shooting isn't totally because he can't adapt to Toronto's new offensive game-plan. He's actually done a pretty good job at adapting to their new system, it just hasn't been reflected by his shooting percentages thus far. Once his shooting comes along, as it usually does after the first few weeks of the season, the narrative regarding Lowry's purported incapability to mesh with Toronto's new system will flip on its head.
Kyle Lowry has been playing almost exactly how the Toronto Raptors need him to play. He's been shaping himself into the quintessential modern point guard, and once his jumper starts to fall, people will take notice.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, unless otherwise stated.