It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Toronto Raptors started last season demolishing all-comers in a 13-2 run that ended with an unfortunate DeMar DeRozan groin injury that cost him over 20 games. DeRozan was returning from an All-Star campaign and perhaps the only good thing to come from his being hurt was it opened the door for Kyle Lowry to earn an All-Star nod of his own.
Lowry and DeRozan are the workhorses of the Raptors offense, but it became obvious during the season that Coach Casey’s defense was built around these two as well. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise when the NBA listed their top 10 NBA backcourts in March that Lowry and DeRozan had claimed the number two spot.
Things shift around every year and the Raptors quick exit from the 2015 playoffs hurt their reputation, however, when evaluating the top point guards heading into this season, Basketball Insiders
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors – Perennially one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA, Lowry is a well-rounded player who means everything to what the Raptors do offensively.
To put things in perspective, among point guards Lowry was 7th in scoring at 17.8 ppg, 8th in assists at 6.8 apg, 5th in rebounds at 4.7 rpg, 10th in steals at 1.6 and 7th in minutes at 34.5 mpg last year. (using ESPN stats for qualified players)
However, Lowry has stood out in Toronto at the defensive end of the court as well where his aggressive style made him number 1 in the NBA at drawing offensive fouls last season per NBA Miner. The fearless 6’1 guard has been among the best in the Association at drawing charges in each of the past two years.
In a league loaded with excellent point guards, Lowry manages to stand out.
DeRozan’s season took a hit due to that groin injury and he looked out of sorts for over a month after his return, but that didn’t stop the prolific scorer from rolling up the stats and Basketball Insiders
5. DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
DeRozan has been the face of the Raptors for quite some time and has been moving up the ranks of shooting guards over the years. Last year, he was fourth among shooting guards in points per game at 20.1. He is ninth in PER at 17.46. DeRozan was fifth in rebounding, averaging 4.6 boards per game, and 10th in assists at 3.5. With the addition of DeMarre Carroll and DeRozan continuing to make big strides, the Raptors could get to the next level.
It often gets overlooked, but DeRozan was 10th in steals among shooting guards (1.2) and fourth in minutes played per game at 35. It should be impossible to miss, Toronto has been heavily reliant on DeRozan for their success.
The addition of the 6’8 forward DeMarre Carroll should make DeRozan’s life a lot easier this time around. Terrence Ross was a shooting guard playing out of position at small forward over the past two years and eventually it caught up with Toronto, particularly in the playoffs.
“I drooled at the mouth just to play alongside guys like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan,” Carroll said. “Those two All-Star guys, they bring a lot.
“I am going to come out and be the Junkyard Dog and do the little things that are going to help this team get over the hump. I am a blue collar guy trying to help my team win by any means necessary.
“I actually told DeMar that now you don’t have to fight with those big guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant no more. You can just go out there and take this team to the promised land.”
With Carroll focused on defense, DeRozan should enjoy his best offensive season yet.
The debate over who will be among the top backcourts this season won’t be easily settled, but there aren’t any other pairings where both guards were top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes at their position last season. Yes that includes Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson who were the obvious best of the best.