The Houston Rockets began the free agent courting season by appearing in Toronto to meet with free agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry has already had a successful stint in Houston in his career, and the thought was that putting him back in a Rockets uniform would give the team a legitimate third scoring option and dynamic playmaker to get more opportunities for Dwight Howard.
Further, Lowry is a good rebounding point guard and strong defender like Patrick Beverley. By all accounts, it would have been a huge upgrade to the starting lineup.
That never happened. Lowry re-signed with the Raptors, and the Raps have a formidable team on the rise. But this isn’t about how good the Raptors can be, nor how well the team has been constructed despite being a mess just two seasons ago. It is all about how the Rockets missed a chance to add a piece that could have lifted the team closer towards contention.
Sometimes, there is a lot made of the top-tier free agents, while several major impact makers are ignored.
Lowry certainly falls into this category. In the first half of the 2011-12 season, Lowry had outproduced every point guard in the Association statistically. He then proceeded to have a series of nagging injuries while his production plummeted. But prior to that, his play…It prompted me to write a knee-jerk (and intentionally controversial) piece asserting Lowry was the best point guard in the NBA. Sometimes, it’s going out on a limb that really shows your cohones.
While no GM would have taken him over the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams (at that time), Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook…he doesn’t fall much beyond that top tier (of which Williams no longer belongs).
Lowry tallied career highs last season with 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Lowry became even more effective from the three-point arc, hitting 38 percent on 6.3 attempts per game. He keeps his turnovers down, with about a 3:1 Assist:Turnover ratio. Most importantly, Kyle passes the eye test. He can run a team. He’s a guy who a coach wants on the court late in games because he makes good decisions.
And the Rockets clearly and obviously could have used that. Beverley and Ramon Sessions will get the job done, especially given that James Harden remains the primary bread winner and ball handler. But the Rox won’t be done chasing point guards.
Rajon Rondo is due to be a free agent at season’s end, and Danny Ainge will likely be angling with No. 9 to see what he can reel in at the trade deadline. Even if Rondo is obtained, the argument could be made that Lowry’s superior shooting abilities would have rendered him a better fit in Houston.
All in all, the laments are that Chris Bosh didn’t head to the Space City. Carmelo Anthony was a faint dream, too. But it may be more accurate that losing out on Kyle Lowry was what cost this team its best chance at climbing the rankings of the rugged Western Conference. That’s a terse explanation of what Lowry could have brought to this team, but those familiar with his first stint in Houston know well the talents the diminutive Lowry brings.
He proved himself initially in the NBA as a spark plug off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies, and grew with Houston. Now, he’ll spend his prime north of the Border. C’est la vie.