When Kyle Lowry first arrived in the NBA, in 2006-07 — as the backup to a guy you’ve probably forgotten about (Chucky Atkins) — he didn’t make a lot of noise. Yes, Lowry entered the league as a first-round pick (24th overall by the Grizzlies), but he only got into 10 games before a broken wrist ended his rookie year in November.
Before he called it a season, though, Lowry gave us a glimpse of things to come. On Nov. 20, 2006, he put up 16 points with five rebounds, six assists, five steals and one trey — a very early sign of what would eventually become an under-appreciated run of excellence.
Lowry toiled mostly as a backup for his first four seasons, but when he finally got a chance to start — with Houston in 2010-11 — high-end fantasy value followed. It’s been that way pretty much ever since. Below is Lowry’s year-by-year production over the last decade (per BasketballMonster.com and Basketball-Reference.com):
|Kyle Lowry, 2010-2020|
|2010-11 — 46th overall (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.7 3s)|
|2011-12 — 26th overall (14.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.7 3s)|
|2012-13 — 65th overall (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.5 3s)|
|2013-14 — 17th overall (17.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 7.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.4 3s)|
|2014-15 — 31st overall (17.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.9 3s)|
|2015-16 — 11th overall (21.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 2.8 3s)|
|2016-17 — 12th overall (22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.2 3s)|
|2017-18 — 29th overall (16.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 3.1 3s)|
|2018-19 — 36th overall (14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 8.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.4 3s)|
|2019-20 — 19th overall (19.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.9 3s)|
It’s obviously not on the level of Chris Paul’s fantasy dominance as a point guard, but Lowry — with two first-round-caliber seasons, four inside the top-20 and eight inside the top-40 — has been extremely productive for a long time.
Now, there are a couple of knocks: Lowry has not been a great shooter – he's at 42.3 percent from his career, and has shot better than 43.0 percent just once in the last decade. He also has a reputation for being injury-prone, and did miss 12 games this season. On the flip side of that, he has actually played 70 or more games four times in the last six years, and had a chance to get to exactly 70 this season if he didn’t miss another game.
Also on the plus side, Lowry actually had his two best seasons at 29 and 30, and was a top-20 guy this year at age 33 (with his two best assist averages — 8.7 and 7.7 — the last two years).
The bottom line is, I think it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate Lowry’s consistently stellar fantasy production, and to take a closer look at a topic we started to unfurl earlier this week: this whole over-30 thing.
The Over-30 Line
A few days ago, I wrote about how Chris Paul and LeBron James have remained real-life and fantasy forces well into their 30s, and how fantasy dynamos ranging from Gerald Wallace to Shawn Marion to Gilbert Arenas all essentially plummeted into a statistical ravine by the time they left their 20’s.
Since that’s obviously a small sample size, I thought it was worth a more extended look. Year-by-year, over the last 15 seasons, here are the players who have had top-12 fantasy campaigns beyond their 30th birthday:
Top-12 Fantasy Seasons Beyond the Age of 30 (2005-2020)
2013-14: Dirk Nowitzki (9th overall, age 35).
2014-15: LeBron James (12th overall, age 30).
And that’s it. At first glance, that may look like a lot of names, but the reality is there have been 39 seasons of top-12 value at 30 years of age or beyond over the last 15 years. That’s an average of 2.6 per year.
There have also been a lot of repeats, so in total there have only been 21 different 30-somethings to pull off this feat over a decade and a half.
You may have also noticed one other thing: With a handful of exceptions (I’m looking at you, Varejao), these are mostly Hall of Fame caliber players — or at least perennial All-Stars. Which makes sense to some extent considering that we are talking about players in the top-12 only. Nevertheless, it pretty much sums up my stance on over-30 guys moving forward: I’ll draft them for my fantasy squads, but only if it’s a superstar-level talent, or something close to that. Bottom line: When you combine an average NBA track record with the years beyond 30, you’re starting to get dangerously close to a losing strategy in fantasy. After a certain point — and all too often, that point is precisely 30 — that mid-level guy has nowhere to go statistically other than straight down.