Raptors’ East Title Hopes Gone If Kyle Lowry Is A Slow Healer

kyle lowry

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:51 AM GMT

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 12:51 AM GMT

Very big injury news out of the NBA on Monday as Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry was ruled out likely the rest of the regular season at least due to wrist surgery. This potentially changes the dynamic of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

How good has Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry been this year? Entering this week, he ranked No. four in the NBA in ESPN’s real plus/minus category at 6.38. That is a player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. Lowry is ahead of MVP candidates like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James. In RPM wins, which is an estimate of the number of wins each player has contributed to his team's total on the season, Lowry was first in the NBA at 12.55. Westbrook, by comparison, was fourth at 11.74.

Lowry, 30, led the NBA in minutes per game at 37.7 while averaging 22.8 points, 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He injured his wrist Feb. 15 against the Charlotte Hornets, the Raptors’ final game before the All-Star break. Some questioned him participating in the Three-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend as well as the game itself with the injury.

Lowry missed the first three games out of the break and will have surgery Tuesday to remove loose bodies from that wrist. The Raptors did not give a specific date for his expected return, terming it simply that he will “aim to return for playoffs.” That sounds rather ominous.

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When Lowry is on the floor, the Raptors score 113.2 points per 100 possessions. They had been outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when Lowry rested. RPM would suggest the Raptors can expect to be about league average during his absence, producing a record around .500. This is truly a shame because this might be the best Raptors team ever with the trade acquisitions of Serge Ibaka from Orlando and P.J. Tucker from Phoenix. Toronto is in win-now mode with Lowry and Ibaka set for free agency this summer.

Backup point guard Cory Joseph will get plenty of run now. Third-stringer Delon Wright has played sparingly during his first two NBA seasons. The Raptors faced an uphill challenge of catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title and the No. 2 seed in the East even with Lowry. Now Toronto seems likely to settle for No. 4 behind the Washington Wizards (Cleveland will be the No. 1).

The main problem with finishing fourth over third means a conference semifinals matchup with the Cavs if chalk holds as opposed to avoiding LeBron & Co. until the East Finals. On BetOnline’s NBA odds, the Raptors are currently +900 to win the East for the first time. They were given a wins total of 48.5 coming out of the All-Star break.

There’s never a good time for an injury on NBA picks, but the Raptors’ schedule is about to get quite challenging. On Wednesday, they host Washington and then start a five-game road trip with another game against the Wizards. The regular season ends with a tough stretch as well, as the Raptors play four of their final five games away from Toronto.

Long story short: if Lowry can play a couple of regular-season games before the playoffs to get back in sync and the Raptors can finish third in the East, no harm done. However, sliding to the fourth spot and getting back a rusty Lowry (if at all) changes things dramatically. 

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