On a recent episode of CJ McCollum's "Pull Up" podcast, Toronto Raptors legend Kyle Lowry joined the show and shared some exclusive insight about Kawhi Leonard. Along with stories about the way Kawhi operates and what makes him so great, Lowry also shared ways in which trading for Kawhi drastically changed his role.
The year before Kawhi Leonard joined the Raptors, Kyle Lowry was an All-Star averaging 16.2 PPG and 6.9 APG. While he maintained his All-Star status alongside Kawhi, it came with slightly recomposed stats. In the 2018-19 season, Lowry's scoring went from 16.2 PPG to 14.2 PPG, but his assist numbers went from 6.9 APG to 8.7 APG.
As Lowry describes it on the podcast, this was by design. Lowry told McCollum that his role changed because Kawhi was averaging around 25 PPG. In order to coexist with a player of Kawhi's caliber, Lowry said he had to "make sure the big dog ate." As Lowry puts it, this caused his scoring to go down, but his assists to go up.
Lowry's willingness to sacrifice his scoring numbers helped propel the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history. After Kawhi left, Lowry has to once again shoulder a much larger scoring load. In the 2019-20 season, Lowry averaged 19.4 PPG which was the most he had averaged since 2017.
As has been well documented by teammates of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and many other all-time greats, playing with a talent like Kawhi requires sacrifices; however, those sacrifices usually lead to winning. In the case of Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors, this is exactly what happened.