The group did not consider that they’d assume the throne atop the East as at the moment constructed, particularly with the younger, proficient cores rising with the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
So Masai Ujiri and Co. determined to shake issues up and boy did they ever.
On Wednesday, the Raptors despatched shockwaves all through the NBA panorama with their acquisition of San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard and Danny Inexperienced in trade for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round choose.
Leonard is without doubt one of the finest two-way gamers within the sport and his record of accolades are infinite as he enters the prime of his profession at age 27. Leonard is already a two-time defensive participant of the yr, has acquired all-NBA first-team honours twice, and has a Finals MVP in his pocket.
However is the transfer the most important gamble in franchise historical past?
The previous 15th general choose was restricted to simply 9 video games in 2017-18 on account of a mysterious quad damage that only a few know the complete extent of. Nevertheless, there is a sturdy risk that Leonard will attend a U.S.A. basketball camp subsequent week in Las Vegas in what can be his first basketball look in a public setting since mid-January.
Amidst the well being questions, he is additionally made it no secret of his need to hitch his hometown L.A. Lakers and might opt-out of his contract at season’s finish.
Kawhi Leonard has no need to play in Toronto, league supply tells ESPN.
With all that being mentioned, Ujiri and basic supervisor Bobby Webster do not make this transfer with out believing they’ve a respectable shot at retaining Leonard’s companies past one season.
The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder had been in an identical state of affairs final season after buying a disgruntled Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and it appeared like a forgone conclusion that he’d be donning the Lakers’ purple and gold subsequent season — a group he grew up cheering for.
But the second he arrived on the airport, George was given a hero’s welcome from the 1000’s of followers that awaited him.
✈️ He is right here! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGOKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrcpercent5Etfw”>#PGOKC</a> <a href=”https://t.co/aI87qR99xy”>pic.twitter.com/aI87qR99xy</a>
The Thunder spent the yr pitching their case to George determining how one can fulfill his needs and wishes from the entrance workplace to the medical group and it appeared to have a long-lasting impression on his resolution to remain put.
“I have not been ready to be a free agent or know what that’s like after which to have the prospect to go the place you need to go. That is at all times been, I really feel with gamers, they need that possibility,” George mentioned at exit interviews after the season. “However then you definitely go into a corporation the place they type of verify the containers on all of the issues that you really want out of a corporation, after which instantly they change into a candidate to the place you need to play long-term … that is been the case right here.”
To place it brief, Toronto is betting on themselves. They’re betting on the profitable tradition they’ve established over 5 consecutive post-season appearances, together with three-straight 50-plus win seasons.
They’re betting on their participant growth — that the likes of homegrown draft picks O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Delon Wright proceed to progress upwardly together with their core.
Lastly, they’re betting on the town to make Leonard fall in love with a singular, rabid fanbase that spreads nationwide.
Whereas Leonard’s coronary heart would possibly at the moment be again dwelling in L.A., that is to not say issues cannot change. When Kyle Lowry was acquired by way of commerce from the Houston Rockets in 2012, he had no intentions of staying long-term in Toronto.
The Raptors’ star initially wished nothing to do with the group and informed his agent he was towards the deal. However Lowry went into the state of affairs open-minded realizing he may bolt after the season if the group did not choose up the choice on his contract.
Little did Lowry know, Toronto was about to change into dwelling.
“I had no concept what Toronto was going to imply to me and what it was going to assist me do. I had no concept. No clue. Who is aware of?” Lowry informed ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski final April. “After which growth, I am right here for 2 contracts. I am in my sixth yr. I have been a four-time all-star, [an] Japanese Convention finals and you are like, ‘who would’ve thought?'”
Kyle Lowry: “I am coming again to Toronto as a result of my coronary heart is telling me that it is dwelling” <a href=”https://t.co/pGlCl1IBYr”>pic.twitter.com/pGlCl1IBYr</a>
A state of affairs that noticed Leonard change into a Raptor gave the impression to be unthinkable however that pipe dream is now a actuality.
The Raptors are really a contender within the Japanese Convention and whereas dropping DeRozan will harm — a star who arguably embraced the town greater than any Raptor — the group is changing him with a top-five calibre participant in Leonard when wholesome.
Toronto additionally acquires a much-needed sharpshooter and succesful defender in Inexperienced. Whereas a lot was made in regards to the Raptors’ tradition change final season, they solely shot 35.eight per cent from lengthy distance (18th within the NBA) and including a former NBA all-second defensive group member would not harm.
With out surrendering their 2020 first-round choose within the deal, the Raptors as a minimum have a basis to rebuild on together with their total younger core ought to Leonard go away.
However that is not the plan.
It is each group’s purpose to win a championship and it was evident the Raptors weren’t doing so by remaining the established order.
Typically there are dangers price taking and that is one among them.