Each year, a new duo or trio emerges in the NBA. By modern day standards you must boast a couple of elite players surrounded by a supporting cast that basically serve as stop-gaps. If you’re lucky, your supporting cast isn’t transparent.
The team that has found success with this tactic is Miami’s big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. To no surprise, the Heat are expected to compete for the title this year and for several more years in the future.
While the Raptors’ backcourt of Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry can’t merely match the top duos, trios, and quartets, they seem well on their way to reaching that elite status as a duo. Yes, three games in a small fraction to draw predictions from, but if those three games are an indication of what’s to come, reaching that plateau might come sooner than expected. That is, if they keep the line moving.
The intriguing part about both Lowry and DeRozan is the fact that they are both steadily progressing as they garner experience. Some young players get stuck at a certain level and do not seize their full potential. Therefore, they are a lost cause. It’s clear that Lowry nor DeRozan currently fall into that category, though.
For Lowry, 2012 was labeled as the season where he finally made his mark, drawing the attention of the rest of the league. He exploded, to say the least, averaging a career-high 13.5 points per game. On top of his revamped scoring average, he also averaged nearly five rebounds and seven assists per game, both of which are also career-highs. Although, it is conceivable that he will top both of those marks this year.
Lowry’s all around numbers boosted his reputation from a shooting point guard, to a lethal weapon in a slim time period. Before, he was strictly a shooter with the constant habit to be out of control. Yet, a breakout season seemed inevitable for Lowry, mainly because his scoring averages have increased slightly since 2009.
The potential to evolve into one of the game’s best point guards was something that Lowry has always possessed. Coaches, fellow players, and general managers knew this as well. It was simply just a matter of combining the talent with the maturity to fulfill that potential. Last year, he undoubtedly accomplished both of those goals, and now has something to build on.
DeRozan, on the other hand, rarely contributed in more ways than one. In simplistic terms, he has always been one-dimensional player, until last year where he averaged five rebounds. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there isn’t anything bold about that meek average, but for DeRozan, it is a substantial step towards becoming a more refined commodity rather than a one trick pony.
In his first three years as a pro, he averaged a solid 14 points per game, but churned in minimal contributions as a rebounder and passer (3.4 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game). Unfortunately for DeRozan, plenty of players share that common niche, such as Nick Young or Jamal Crawford, to name a couple of the best. Much like his rebounding numbers, there isn’t anything special about this niche.
But the special thing about Lowry and DeRozan, is the fact that both are still young and learning the league. Specifically, Lowry is 26 years-old and DeRozan is just 23 years-old. Not only will they grow side by side over the next few years, but a talented backcourt produces winners. This is just what Toronto boasts.
Take the 2011 version of the Thunder for example. A duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden propelled them to the finals. Of course Kevin Durant played a insurmountable act in this three part play as well, but without a sturdy crop of guards, the Thunder would be forced to heavily rely on Durant. Obviously, that wouldn’t be such a bad road to take, but side affects would linger from relying solely on the NBA’s premier scorer.
If you need more evidence, let’s delve into the Celtics’ situation. Ray Allen is gone now, but look how successful Boston was for five straight years with Rajon Rondo and Allen controlling the C’s offense. For five consecutive seasons they made the playoffs, won one championship, and the end result was the rare “dynasty” tag.
It’s safe to say that a solid backcourt is the backbone of a good team. In the past, this probably wasn’t the case, as centers were vastly more important. And they still are, but centers are less effective without penetrating guards to feed them the ball. For the Raptors, this comes as good news with Lowry and DeRozan potentially under contract for the next few years.
Sure, the Raptors were blown out at the hands of the Thunder on Tuesday night, and Lowry suffered an ankle injury that chased him from the game, in the second quarter but remember, we’re in early November, not March. Lowry is still adapting to a new offense scheme, as is the rest of the team.
While it’s too early to draw any assumptions, the Raptors, led by their two budding guards, could be a playoff team for years to come if the dominos fall in the right direction. A supporting cast is still needed, but Toronto has the foundation set.
One thing is for sure, though, the Raptors’ backcourt will soon be able to match basketball’s best.