Title: Kyle Lowry and Raptors embrace return to big frontcourts in romp of Vince Carter’s Hawks
Date: November 21, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I wrote about their return to a larger frontcourt with so many players hurt in a victory over the Hawks, with a footnote on a Vince Carter milestone.
Kyle Lowry sure can operate with two big men on the floor.
This isn’t meant to be facetious, necessarily. There are good reasons the Raptors have opted to go with a single traditional big for the bulk of this season, and the efficiency of each of their centres – and Lowry himself, as a playmaker – is hard to argue with. Both centres are having career years in per-minute and per-possession terms, and Lowry is using the additional space created by those lineups to lead the league in assists. Being a little smaller, a little more agile and a little more versatile is important in the modern NBA, and the Raptors have looked good playing that way, particularly when Lowry and either centre are accompanied by Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
It is meant as a reminder, though. A reminder that Lowry has been quite good operating with dual bigs for years now as the Raptors stuck to starting more traditionally despite the emerging dogma of the league around them. And the Raptors themselves were quite good like that, too. In earlier years, it was sometimes in spite of particular starting lineups. Last year, the Serge Ibaka-Jonas Valanciunas pairing was quite good. As I noted in my tactical breakdown after the Magic game, that pairing had a plus-6.9 net rating in a huge sample last year and maintained a plus-4.7 net rating in the playoffs despite the team’s eventual attempts to shake things up involving breaking them up. Separating them was never so much about the pairing being untenable but about opening up more minutes for the team’s guards and wings and about maximizing the individual utility of each in a more-in-less platoon of sorts.
Well, the Raptors didn’t have all of those wings available on Wednesday as they took on the Atlanta Hawks, and it was the team’s return to playing big that helped them to a shorthanded 124-108 victory.