The Raptors Are NBA Champions!
The Toronto Raptors have defeated the Golden State Warriors in 6 games to take home their first-ever NBA Championship in franchise history! For the past 4 seasons, the Raptors were always known as choke artists in the playoffs despite dominating in the regular season. Last season is a perfect example of this as the Raptors managed to win 59 games which were a franchise record. When entering the playoffs, they were swept in the second round against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a result, Masai Ujiri had to take action as both he and the Raptors organization was fed up in always losing despite having a good roster. Ujiri ended up making the riskiest trade as well as one of the most cutthroat trades in NBA history by, sending franchise superstar Demar Derozen in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. Looking at this trade now, it seems as if the Spurs got robbed considering that the Raptors managed to win a championship in just the first year of the Kawhi era. Although Derozen was not able to accomplish a championship in Toronto, Derozen was a massive part of their success. Without Derozen, the Raptors would not have have been as popular as they are as he did lead the Raptors to their first ever conference finals appearance. He managed to be a multiple all-star during his time in Toronto and is arguably the greatest Raptor in franchise history even though Kawhi Leonard won the Raptors only Championship. Although the Raptors won the Championship this year, what is next for the city of Toronto?
As everyone knows, Kawhi Leonard is entering this off-season as a free-agent. This was why Masai Ujiri received a lot of hate when doing this trade considering that he traded away franchise player Demar Derozen for a one-year rental. However, after winning the championship and being crowned as a finals MVP, it is safe to say that Kawhi Leonard will resign with Toronto. Similar to Kevin Durant, Kawhi would probably sign a 2-year deal with a player option considering that he still has a lot of fuel in the tank. In my own opinion, I do not think that Kawhi should sign a super-max 4-year contract considering the rest of the roster. Although players such as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell are young, the rest of the roster who play significant minutes are all above 30 years of age. This means that most of the roster is starting to decline which determines that this is not a long-term destination for Kawhi Leonard. Despite the Raptors being one of the biggest markets in the NBA which is something that Kawhi wanted, the roster would have to split to have long-term success. If the Raptors want Kawhi to stay, then they would need to trade away players such as, Kyle Lowry as he is 34 with a 30+ million dollar contract, Serge Ibaka who is also making a similar amount while being 30 years of age, and Marc Gasol who has a player option of 25 million dollars at the age of 34. That’s most of their salary cap gone which limits the Raptors in signing any significant free-agent this off-season except Kawhi Leonard. However, even if the Raptors don’t do anything next season to improve the roster, Kawhi Leonard would still resign with Toronto just not on a long-term deal.
The Raptors surprised the entire NBA by winning the NBA championship. Although Kawhi was the main star on this team, the rest of the roster played terrifically. From clutch 3-point shots by Fred VanVleet to, Pascal shooting 32 points in the first game of the finals, the Raptors surrounded Kawhi with reliable scorers. Even Kyle Lowry played outstanding in the finals especially in game 6 as he managed to score 26 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds. Defensively, the Raptors were unstoppable at every position. Lowry and VanVleet managed to hold Steph Curry down the entire playoffs when it mattered the most. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were also huge contributors defensively inside the paint and outside the perimeter. The Warriors, however, relied on their jump-shooting and play-making while the Raptors primary focus was defence. In the last few seasons, offensive orientated play style had greater success than defensive orientated play style. This is why the Raptors championship victory is as great as it is. Not only did Canada win their very first NBA championship, but they also won the finals through defence which is something the NBA has not seen since the 2014 San Antonio Spurs. Now offensively, the Raptors were incredible; however, their defence is what allowed them to reach the success they did. Due to this, Toronto is now a city of champions something they had not experienced since the 90’s when the Blue Jay’s won the world series. The world saw what Toronto fans did to the city when they won the conference finals. Now that the Raptors are world champions, only time will tell for what is going to happen moving forward for the city of Toronto.