On Tuesday morning, Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry is set to have surgery on his right Wrist. The team announced he’ll miss several weeks.
Kyle Lowry to undergo surgery Tuesday morning to remove loose bodies from right wrist. Aim to return for playoffs. #WeTheNorth
— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) February 27, 2017
The former Villanova guard encountered this injury in the final regular season game before the All-Star break on Feb. 15th. Even after this occurred, Lowry would still participate in the Three-Point Contest and the All-Star Game that weekend.
This injury is a major blow for the Raptors after making two moves before the trade deadline to make a run for the Eastern Conference’s number one seed.
The face of the Franchise:
Lowry is the playmaker for this team. In 56 games this season, he averaged 22.8 points, a team-high 6.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. He’s shooting 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc, both numbers are career-best for a full season.
By all means, Toronto is not a one-man show, but there is no one man more important than Lowry. Lowry is the driving force of the offense, manipulating defenses in the pick-and-roll and creating open shots. He is easily the Raptors’ best shooter and one of the most efficient point guards in the league.
DeMar DeRozan is having a stellar year, earning every penny of his latest extension. However, this injury will put a ton of pressure on a scorer who can’t consistently make three-pointers. Plus without Lowry, more of the playmaking burden falls on DeRozan, who has been fantastic this season but has carried a high minutes and usage rate that is already worrisome.
Is home field advantage still in the cards?
It’s currently a dog fight for the top four spots in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland Cavaliers hold the No.1 seed while the Boston Celtics hold No.2. If Lowry was coming back, they would have had legitimate hopes of catching the Celtics for the No. 2 spot with Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker now in the fold. Boston has a three-game lead on the Raptors, and now that gap looks bigger.
The Raptors are basically tied with Washington for the 3rd seed, sitting one game back in the loss column. However, if Toronto doesn’t have Lowry, you can’t like their chances to pass Washington and keep that third seed. To make matters worse for Toronto, the Atlanta Hawks are only 2.5 games back in the fifth seed. The Hawks could provide a more pressing issue.
May not need Lowry?
Without Lowry but with their new additions, Toronto has won both games coming out of the All-Star break, including a victory against Boston on Friday. Lowry’s importance to the team shouldn’t be underplayed, and his absence will likely catch up to Toronto at some point. However, two solid wins could be a sign that the Raptors are good enough to avoid a major drop-off while he’s out. The additions of Ibaka and Tucker allow the Raptors now to be more defensive which they desperately need, and have proper spacing all game.
Cory Joseph, 25, has been inconsistent this season, however, when playing well one of the league’s best backups. He’s one of the Raptors’ few players who can get to the basket with relative ease, and he has great touch around the basket. While he doesn’t shoot a ton of 3s, he’s making a career-high 39.7 percent of them this season.
Delon Wright, 24, is largely untested as an NBA player, but his recent play has been exciting. He has a knack for getting deflections, and he’s a patient pick-and-roll player with nice change-of-pace moves. An opportunity for both of these guys to play long minutes can only help the Raptors once Lowry gets back.
According to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarkowski, there’s a chance Lowry returns sooner and plays by the end of the regular season. From now until the end of the regular season, Toronto’s goal should be to get the third seed. If the Raptors finish fourth or fifth, then they’d be set up to face the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round rather than the conference finals. They should want to avoid that at all costs.