The addition of Lowry brings veteran toughness and leadership to the starting point guard spot.
They orchestrated a sign-and-trade for former Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who agreed to a three-year deal. The specifics of the deal have yet to be officially released by the Heat, but it’s widely reported that it will include Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa going to Toronto.
Lowry, 35, was one of the most coveted point guards on the 2021 free agent market. He averaged 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game last season, shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Below, I break down some film to see what Lowry could add, and how he can fit into this Miami Heat squad.
Let’s dive into it!!
Pushing the pace:
Though the Heat have scored effectively in transition, they haven’t played in transition that often.
Last year, they ranked T-5 in the league in points per possession in transition (1.14), though they sported the 13th-lowest transition frequency (14.9 percent) coupled with the second-worst pace.
In 2019-20, the Heat recorded the fourth-lowest (13.3 percent) frequency with the fourth-worst pace, but tallied the second-best points per possession in transition (1.2), per NBA.com’s tracking data.
It’s not in Lowry’s DNA to slow down.
Lowry pushes the pace — off rebounds and steals — more than most league-wide. Among players who logged at least 175 transition possessions last year, Lowry got out in transition 22.2 percent of the time — the 10th-highest frequency in the league, per NBA.com’s tracking data.
Per Cleaning the Glass, the Raptors logged transition possessions 2.4 percent more when Lowry was on the floor — including 7.1 percent more off live rebounds — both placing in the 94th percentile or better.
The play above is just one example of that.
Lowry receives the outlet pass from Stanley Johnson with two other Raptor players out on the break before the Philadelphia 76ers are allowed to set their defense. Lowry breezes past Mike Scott before freezing a back-pedaling Shake Milton with an off-handed in-and-out dribble, scooting past him without a contest for the tear drop conversion.
I know: Above is an example of very poor transition defense. However, it also features Lowry operating in the open floor, one of his most notable strengths.
Lowry corrals the long rebound and doesn’t think about twice about de-escalating Toronto’s tempo. He is the only Raptor who has crossed half court by the time he does, but it doesn’t matter. Once again, he used another in-and-out dribble to blow by Terrance Ross — who reaches — finishing the lay-in plus the foul.
In the third clip, Lowry receives a kick-ahead pass from Fred VanVleet. In a 4-on-3 transition scenario, Lowry spots Khem Birch, filling the middle channel, out-pacing Cleveland’s lackluster transition defense, throwing a perfect chest pass for the uncontested layup.
Of course, it’s going to take a team-wide commitment to up the tempo, but Lowry will certainly push the motive in Erik Spoelstra’s ear just like he pushed the basketball up the floor over the years.
Two-level scoring with some rim pressure?
Let’s start with his most notable level of scoring — 3-point shooting. Throughout his career, Lowry’s been an volume shooter from range. In 11 of his 15 seasons, Lowry has hit over one 3-pointer per game, including seven seasons of two-plus 3s and two with three-plus.
He’s also netted them with adept efficiency, knocking down at least 35 percent of his treys in 11 of his 15 NBA seasons, including 39.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last year.
Lowry’s potent 3-point shooting is diversified. He knocked down at least 37 percent of his 3-point attempts as a pull-up and spot-up shooter last year.
In the first clip, VanVleet, the ball handler, brings the ball up the floor with pace. He hesitates before blowing past his defender, Eric Bledsoe. Lonzo Ball over-stunts VanVleet’s drive, leaving Lowry wide open in the corner. Ball’s late contest allows Lowry to get off the spot-up 3-pointer that drops.
In the second clip, Lowry hauls-in the one-handed rebound that triggers the fast break. He scans the floor, waiting for one of the four Orlando back-peddlers to pick up the ball. He realizes nobody tries to stop the ball and pulls up for an open trey, knocking it down.
These are just meager examples of what Lowry provides as both a spot-up and pull-up 3-point shooter.
He provides the same juice as a mid-range shooter, too, though the frequency dips considerably.
Opposing defenses typically respect a near 40 percent deep-ball shooter, just like they do here. Lowry does a good job of taking advantage of their respect.
After receiving the baseline pass on the clip above, Lowry takes advantage of LaMelo Ball’s hard close out, taking one dribble inside the arc to an open area before rising up for an open 20-footer.
He has keen ability at bending over-extended defenses. Depending on Miami’s personnel — with its flurry of off-ball movement paired with his pedigree as a deep-ball shooter — those opportunities from mid-range could be maximized. Lowry shot 43.2 percent on long 2s last season, ranking in the 55th percentile.
Above, Lowry is pitted isolation situation against Gordan Hayward with just under 45 seconds remaining. He utilizing a couple hesitation between-the-legs dribbles before attacking Hayward’s front foot, forcing the 6-foot-7 to flip his hips quickly in attempt to prevent the blow-by.
Hayward does so successfully, but Lowry’s shiftiness — in addition to his step back — imbalances him, creating separation for the go-ahead 15-footer.
Lowry uses his strength to leverage bigger opponents, making shots at the rim easier to convert.
Over the years, his shot frequency from the rim has decreased, but his field goal percentage at the rim has grown. Last year, Lowry shot a career-high 64.5 percent at the rim, placing in the 80th percentile per Cleaning the Glass.
He took just 21 percent of his shots at the rim last year — a career-low — but when he does generate rim pressure, it bends defenses to fashion cutting alleys for Butler and Adebayo, in addition to Robinson and other shooters on the perimeter.
Unlocking teammates’ strengths as screener:
Throughout his 15-year career, one of Lowry’s specialties was utilizing teammates’ strengths.
He’s provided the beneficiary specifically in the pick-and-roll: Hitting rollers downhill for easy 2s, throwing crosscourt passes to open shooters when their defender tags the roller and even creating downhill pathways as a screener with perimeter wings in the inverted pick-and-roll.
We’ll focus on the latter part, for now.
In the play above, Lowry flows into a inverted pick-and-roll with Pascal Siakam, who is best when he has a head of steam downhill.
This action gets Siakam going downhill to his strong side, gaining leverage on Josh Jackson — despite understandably going under the screen.
The same action is presented above, though Orlando defended it differently than Detroit.
Siakam puts then-Magic forward Khem Birch in the primary action with rookie guard Cole Anthony as the hedge defender. Anthony doesn’t hedge the ball-screen hard, and then releases without Birch navigating Lowry’s screen in time.
Orlando’s miscommunication gifted Siakam an open driving lane. Evan Fournier stunts from the corner, while center Nikola Vucevic must help from the weakside corner. It didn’t matter.
Whether he’s in the HORNS set, in a dribble hand-off or in a high pick-and-roll, Lowry’s ability as a screener will generate scoring and playmaking opportunities for Adebayo and Butler. Spoelstra will almost certainly mix-up the different variations that Lowry can operate in off-the-ball, maximizing the team’s ceiling.
Pick and roll facilitator:
Lowry is a floor general. Like I mentioned above, he’s excellent at unlocking his teammates’ strengths in the pick-and-roll, getting them in advantageous situations.
These two clips above are a perfect example of that.
Both plays are identical; Lowry operates with Chris Boucher in the pick-and-roll. He gets blitzed by New Orleans Pelicans defenders, opening up 4-on-3 advantages downhill. In the first clip, Boucher attacks Nicolo Melli, the help defender, before hoisting a floater; in the second, instead, he pulled-up for a routine elbow jumper.
Lowry makes the simple reads out of the pick-and-roll, but also has the capability to make advanced reads and manipulate defenses:
In the clip above, Lowry’s in a Spain pick-and-roll action with Boucher as the main screener and VanVleet in the “screen the screener’s man” role. As expected, Boucher dives to the rim, VanVleet fades — forcing while Melli’s forced to decide between the two.
He uses eye manipulation to freeze Melli, looking off VanVleet before rifling a pass for Boucher — creating a 3-on-2 situation. Neither Steven Adams and Brandon Ingram collapse in time to prevent the easy lay-in.
Lowry’s also very good at utilizing pocket passes as well, as seen below:
Unlocking Adebayo’s strengths as a rolling facilitator plus getting him and Butler in spots where they’re most comfortable is paramount, which Lowry provides.
Stout defensive instincts with quick hands:
Above, Anthony and Vucevic initiate a pick-and-roll above the break. Aron Baynes is the drop defender and attempts create a late switch (before the play unfolds), while VanVleet fights over and then retreats to the 6-foot-11 center.
What Anthony doesn’t see is Lowry tagging from the opposite wing.
The 35-year-old, with sensational acumen and instincts, reads the play two steps before everyone else. He bursts into the passing lane and creates the steal that eventually leads to the easy transition finish.
The 6-foot guard is regarded as one of the top rebounders in the league for his size. He’s hauled-in 5.1 rebounds per game over the last five seasons — the most in the NBA among active players that are 6-foot or shorter in that span. Chris Paul (4.9 rpg) is second, while Kemba Walker (3.8) ranks third.
Lowry pursues the rebound in the clip above, though it’s corralled by forward Semi Ojeleye. His instincts take over, promptly poking the ball away to create the fastbreak lay-in.
Like Butler, Lowry is a very instinctual defensive player — an element that will significantly heighten Miami’s ceiling defensively.
What do you think about Lowry’s fit with the Heat? Comment below.