The Toronto Raptors did something last offseason that most teams in the NBA don’t do: Take a flyer on a one-year rental for a disgruntled superstar. They traded DeMar DeRozan, one of the team’s most beloved players, for San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The trade was one of the gutsiest in recent memory, and it paid off immensely. Let’s look at their 2019 season and determine how much the team is worth after a successful NBA Finals run.
Trade for Kawhi Leonard
Before the start of the 2018-19 season, Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, and it altered the landscape of the NBA. The Raptors were one of the best teams in the league last year, finishing 58-24, good enough for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Leonard would go on to have an MVP caliber season, averaging 26 points and seven rebounds per game, both career highs.
Raptors win the NBA championship
The playoffs weren’t new to the Raptors organization, as they suffered numerous heartbreaks to LeBron James during his time in a Cavaliers uniform. This year the conference was wide open, as James opted to leave Cleveland and head to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors and Bucks were the two top teams in the East, and many predicted a clash in the Eastern Conference finals.
Before meeting up with Milwaukee the Raptors had to meet the Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinals, and an unforgettable Leonard buzzer-beater in Game 7 is already one of the NBA’s most clutch playoff moments.
The Raptors took care of the Bucks in six games and meet the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Leonard would earn his second NBA Finals MVP award after averaging 28 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
Leonard leaves for Los Angeles
The free agency choices for Leonard came down to the Los Angeles Clippers, Lakers, and the Raptors. Ultimately, Leonard decided to head back to his hometown and team up with Paul George to play for the Clippers. Does this mean Toronto is heading into a full rebuild?
How much are the Raptors worth?
In February of 2019, Forbes listed the Raptors as the 11th most valuable team in the NBA at $1.7 billion. The ownership group was already used to popular sports investments, as the Toronto Maple Leafs are the second most valuable team in the National Hockey League.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Richard Peddie, the former CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., said the biggest boost to team value will come in the form of luxury suite sales. An increase in the price for the remaining luxury suites should also be in order, while Peddie believes ticket revenue won’t have a significant impact.
Is there a potential buyer?
Although the team isn’t for sale, one potential buyer could be the co-founder of software leader Oracle, Larry Ellison. In 2010 he was part of an ownership group that almost purchased the Golden State Warriors. He also tried in 2012 to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies with the hope of moving them to San Jose, but his offer was turned down.
Purchasing the Raptors would mean a commitment from ownership to keep the team in Toronto, and we don’t see why Ellison wouldn’t do that to get an opportunity to own an NBA team, something he has coveted for the last two decades.