Very rarely do star players as complimentary as Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard get to play with one another, but the Toronto Raptors made that situation a reality when they pulled off that famous earth-shattering trade. It’s safe to say that their one year together worked out for the best.
Before Leonard bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers, he helped Toronto go on a magical playoff run that culminated in the franchise’s first championship ever. Leonard’s numbers in the playoffs are so jaw-dropping that it remains one of the best single efforts that any player has ever authored in any postseason.
However, according to Lowry himself on CJ McCollum’s “Pull Up Podcast,” it wasn’t always easy to get other teammates in sync with Leonard. Lowry had to change his style of play because of how Kawhi would dominate the ball.
Lowry claimed that Leonard “rubbed people the wrong way” because of how he would take over games on the offense end, leaving his teammates wide open and begging for shots. However, because of his pedigree as a player and effectiveness as a scorer, Lowry was able to overlook those concerns.
“Kawhi rubbed people the wrong way because of how he operates,” Lowry said. “He’s like, ‘Yo, give me the ball. I’ma get it done.’ You might be like, ‘Kawhi, I’m open,’ But he’s like, ‘I’m gonna get this bucket.’ You understand he’s the best player. Big dog gotta eat.”
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry discusses playing with Kawhi Leonard.
During the postseason, Leonard averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, all while playing elite defense on the opposing team’s best player and making clutch shot after clutch shot when the Raptors needed him most. I guess assuming that role of primary offensive option worked out pretty well for Kawhi.
While Lowry’s scoring dipped to 14.2 points per game, his lowest mark since his first season in Toronto, he averaged a career-high 8.7 assists per game, plenty of which came off of feeds to Leonard. Lowry himself admitted that he didn’t care what became of his statistics with Kawhi on the floor as long as the Raptors won.
Safe to say, they won. Leonard never has to pay for a drink again in Toronto thanks to the way he steamrolled anyone who stood in Toronto’s path.
Leonard didn’t stay in Toronto for very long, and playing with him apparently takes some adjustment if you’re a star like Lowry, but it is inarguable that whatever arrangement those two ironed out ended up working beautifully.