The Raptors had a solid "Plan B" in place after going all in for Steve Nash. Some fans wanted Lowry over Nash for a few reasons. First was the more than reasonable contract that Lowry has. The second, and more important to the on-court product, was his abilities and skills on the defensive end of the floor.
The Raptors made an amazing turnaround on defense last season, ranking in the top 10 in defensive field-goal percentage. This was with one of the weakest defenders at the point guard position in the NBA with Jose Calderon. Now you add Lowry with a number of other defensive-minded players; that should only improve matters.
Calderon is a victim of an NBA that has dramatically changed in terms of speed and talent at the point guard position. Lowry is one of a list of talented point guards that has entered the league since Jose Calderon’s arrival to the NBA from Spain. Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and the list could go on from there.
You often hear defense in the NBA referenced as links in a chain. Calderon was that weak link at the most important position in that chain. Lowry will attack and challenge the ball handler on the other side. He has active hands and can create steals and turnovers. He has the speed and determination to recover if he is beat on a given play.
This will be vital not only for the Raptors defense to have this, but also for their offense. The Raptors have talked about having a more up-tempo style offense. The best way to get that offense rolling is getting turnovers and running in transition.
The more points a team can get in transition, the better in the NBA. It is far easier to put points on the board when you do not have to deal with a team setup in its half-court sets.
You also have a lot of players that can take advantage of this. At the head of that list is DeMar DeRozan, who is a dynamic finisher on the break. This should help him pad his point totals with some easy points in transition.
The Raptors also have added some punch to their three-point shooting ,which could get some easy transition scores from beyond the arc. Andrea Bargnani, as a trailer on the break, could take the most advantage of this.
Lowry himself is a solid three-point shooter and is more likely to call his own number than Calderon. Last season while covering the team, Dwane Casey had told me that they had to encourage Calderon to be a scorer and look for his own shot to get scoring production from him. This will not be a problem with Kyle Lowry.
Lowry’s impact on this roster should be massive. The question will be, how immediate that impact will be?
He has been out with what the Raptors have categorized as a strained adductor muscle he sustained in his left leg during training camp in Halifax. It was not deemed as serious. It will be serious that Lowry is able to remain healthy, as the Raptors have made their system on offense very Lowry-friendly.
Calderon left Friday’s game against Detroit with a tight hamstring. The health concerns of both Lowry and Calderon may make the signing of John Lucas III even more important than they expected or wanted it to be.
If the Raptors are to surprise and find a way into the playoffs, it will be in big part to Kyle Lowry. If he suffers with injures or struggles, the Raptors are going to be in serious trouble.
Raptor fans will just be happy to see the guy. He cost the franchise an almost-guaranteed lottery pick and Gary Forbes. The evaluation of if that price was too high will begin.
Lowry returned to practice on Sunday and should have lots of time to be ready for this debut. It will be interesting to see if the Raptors limit his minutes in this first game. The status of how many minutes Calderon is able to play or if he is able to play might have an impact on that. Lucas has been able to gobble up any minutes he is given like Pac-Man if they are available, though.
After the big debut of Jonas Valanciunas last Wednesday, the Raptors have another debut this Wednesday, and it is just as important if not more on their immediate future.
It does add some intrigue to the preseason for Toronto Raptors fans, getting to see these new pieces enter the fray. It remains to be seen if these minor injures will be anything to worry about long-term. It may just be the Raptors being overly cautious after what they dealt with last season with Andrea Bargnani and his calf.