When the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard, it showed the rest of the league they were all-in to win. The move paid off as they will raise the team’s first NBA championship banner at the start of this upcoming season.
With Leonard taking his talents back to Los Angeles, Toronto is stuck deciding whether they will do a complete rebuild or make another run at the finals. Let’s look at their most recent move and decide whether they should blow everything up or try to stay in “win-now” mode.
The Raptors win the 2019 NBA Championship
After trading for Leonard, Toronto put up a dominant run to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. After a thrilling Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors quickly went from an 0-2 hole to win the series and make it to the NBA Finals.
The Finals matchup was Toronto-versus-Golden State, as the Warriors looked for the first three-peat since the 2000-02 Lakers. With Kevin Durant out for most of the series due to a quad injury (then an Achilles injury), Toronto won in six games.
Raptors build around Pascal Siakam
The 2019 NBA Most Improved Player could turn into a legitimate All-Star this upcoming season. Teaming him with Leonard helped improve his offensive game immensely.
On the nights Leonard rested or wasn’t a focal point of the offense, Pascal Siakam delivered including a 44-point outing before the All-Star break. He averaged 19 points per game last season and if he can work on the defensive end of the floor, he could develop into a complete player.
It will be intriguing to see how teams gameplan around him as the focus of the offense this season. We think he’ll be up to the task and should be better than advertised this upcoming season.
Masai Ujiri’s comments on extensions
At Toronto Raptors media day, here’s what Masai Ujiri had to say about the team’s upcoming expiring contracts: “I think Kyle, Serge and Gasol really, really showed maturity in the playoffs last year … The roller coaster that this game can bring is incredible. I thought those guys showed unbelievable composure as veteran players and I think it’s going to carry into this year.”
Kyle Lowry has already been given an extension, and we think Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol will both re-sign as well. Adding Gasol to the team before the trade deadline last year helped the team improve their offensive game in the high post, as he’s still one of the best passing big men in the game. Gasol’s numbers dipped slightly, but we think he still has a lot to bring to the team in 2019.
Is this extension legitimate?
Kyle Lowry has been a face of the Toronto Raptors but the guard always has his struggles in the playoffs. He had one-year remaining on his current deal before signing a one-year extension worth $31 million.
You can look at this extension in one of two ways. First, the Raptors sign him to an extra year in hopes of moving him in a deal. Or, second, they legitimately want him to be a Raptor for life. If Toronto is serious about keeping Lowry, it could keep them in the playoffs for the next two seasons.