What Does Kyle Lowry in the “Real Season” Look Like?
“I’m just getting prepared for the real season,” Kyle Lowry stated after the Heat’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
It’s one of those things that you love to hear, but have to see before completely believing. Lowry has been huge all season in terms of team impact, just through the ways of both calming and setting up this Heat offense in a fashion this group hasn’t seen in recent years.
When projecting forward into that “real season,” the ceiling of this group seems to rely on one player much more than the rest. Of course certain match-ups can be discussed, but this team’s success is going to mirror the things that lie under Bam Adebayo’s offensive umbrella come playoff time.
But it’s up to those around him to elevate that element even further, which is exactly what would enter this group into that true championship tier.
And that elevation element has a lot to do with veteran point guard Kyle Lowry.
Many will focus on the shot attempts solely, because it’s the easiest thing to point to, but it’s more about where and when he’s taking specific shots. Looking in recent years, there’s never been a major jump in shot attempts from him when comparing the regular season to the playoffs.
For example here, when watching his 4 for 12 night against Minnesota on Saturday, this shot stood out from the rest. Part of it is that it’s there for him way too often not to take advantage of, and secondly, this is the shot that can change Miami’s half-court offensive attack in the post-season, specifically in that starting unit.
A simple Lowry-Bam PnR in the middle of the floor takes place against another form of drop coverage that we see so often. Duncan Robinson plants on that strong-side wing, which spectator mode from him is enough impact on the possession already. The reasoning is that spacing immediately eliminates any type of help at the nail on Lowry’s attack.
The defender dips off that corner shooter instead, in Gabe Vincent, which would usually be Jimmy Butler in a healthy lineup. Yet, the spacing would look quite similar.
All of that said, the way the defense is positioned basically enhances Lowry into that bounce back mid-range jumper, which is a shot he is surely comfortable in taking. Here, he buries it, but it’s much more about taking it whenever it’s sitting there in the “real season,” since that causes defenses to adjust quickly.
But realistically, that specific shot will only be sitting there in certain scenarios, while the primary element of his shot profile is sitting right in front of our eyes each and every night.
Scoring off the attack.
When Lowry was brought to Miami, running pick and rolls next to Bam Adebayo was the immediate clip that played in every Heat fans head. Forcing 2-on-1’s and lobbing up the perfect lob pass to Adebayo with his insanely elite passing skill.
And well, that projected illustration has been seen quite frequently this season.
But is it crazy to say we’ve seen it too* frequently?
Lowry is averaging 7.8 drives per game so far this season. Yet among players averaging at least 7 drives per game, which includes 89 players, Lowry is dead last in shot attempts within those possessions at 2.2 field goal attempts.
When we talk about Lowry magically transitioning into the “real season,” that’s the wild shift that is coming. A 1 of 4 finish in a win against Cleveland may stand out, but the issue was that all 4 shots came from beyond the arc.
For this team to truly take that next offensive level once Lowry starts to increase his scoring aggression, the jump in paint touches and scoring at the rim is the key.
Back into the film, the way that this begins to change possessions is that it puts so much pressure on defenses to have multiple attackers/play-makers on the floor, which will lead to an uptick in outside shooting that ranks dead last in spot-up frequency at this point in time.
Evaluating the play above, this was a drawn up play from Erik Spoelstra after some free throws were taken by the Timberwolves on the other side. Max Strus and Duncan Robinson in the game together for this possession so they can camp out in each corner, simply daring the defense to dip off of them in the slightest.
Three-man game at the top between Lowry, Bam, and Herro.
Herro inserts to Lowry, flies off the Bam screen as Lowry hits him in stride, and the first downhill contact is seen.
Naz Reid, who is supposed to be guarding Adebayo on the roll, steps up onto Herro for the help. Anthony Edwards has to help down, Herro zips it back across court to Lowry, leading right back into a misdirection from Lowry into the lane as the defense is in a recovery frenzy.
Ends in a Lowry miss, but this is what attackers do in the half-court. More movement, better shots.
I asked Lowry about the need for rim pressure and trying to make up for it without Butler, which he responded, “We can’t duplicate what Jimmy does. We gotta go out there and do things that we can do to try and win the game…It’s just different. We can’t make up for what that guy brings.”
That stuff is all true, but Lowry’s attacking is going to be mostly predicated on nights that Butler is* on the floor and suiting up.
Lowry has been an elite offensive player for this Heat team without even scoring the basketball in crazy fashion, but change is coming. And as noted, those driving numbers potentially changing could shift the entire offense.
Not at the expense of anybody else. But just in bail out times where this team goes cold. His job is to get them out of the mud, and that specific part of his skill-set will do that.
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