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Sport Why the Raptors will remain a contender in the East without Kawhi Leonard — and why they won't

19:10  21 october  2019
19:10  21 october  2019 Source:   sportingnews.com

Report: Raptors, Lowry agree to 1-year, $31M extension

  Report: Raptors, Lowry agree to 1-year, $31M extension The Toronto Raptors and guard Kyle Lowry have agreed to terms on a one-year extension worth $31 million, Lowry's agent confirmed to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The extension will add to the one year and $33.3 million Lowry is set to earn in 2019-20 for a total of $64 million over the next two seasons. The 33-year-old's future with the reigning NBA champions had been debated this summer, with some suggesting the departure of Kawhi Leonard for Los Angeles could push the Raptors to begin a rebuilding process that would necessitate moving on from Lowry.

Why would the Raptors trade for Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs? Was Kawhi Leonard in his Kawhi Leonard has been traded to the Raptors for DeMar Derozan in a bizarre turn of events Masai Ujiri, the Raptors GM, must have not felt confident in the Raptors in the East even without LeBron

In the blockbuster trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob The sense of loss around the Raptors is even more palpable. Last season, they finished with the But he was always regarded as a franchise player and the plausible cornerstone of a contender .

With all of Canada behind them, the Raptors brought home their first-ever NBA championship in 2019. It was a magical run that ended with the Raptors holding the Larry O'Brien trophy in the last game played at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

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Celebrations don't last forever, of course. The ball will go up on Oct. 22 to kick off the 2019-20 regular season. The Raptors once again have the same goal as every other team: hoist that trophy.

MORE: Ranking the top 15 NBA players for 2019-20

Agent: Raptors, Lowry agree on $31 million extension

  Agent: Raptors, Lowry agree on $31 million extension Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors have agreed on a $31 million, one-year extension that could keep him with the NBA champions through the 2020-21 season. Agent Mark Bartelstein on Monday confirmed the agreement, which was first reported by ESPN. Lowry and the Raptors had been talking for some time about this, so the extension was not unexpected. The star guard was entering the final year of a $100 million, three-year deal. But now he'll bypassAgent Mark Bartelstein on Monday confirmed the agreement, which was first reported by ESPN. Lowry and the Raptors had been talking for some time about this, so the extension was not unexpected.

Kawhi Anthony Leonard (/kəˈwaɪ/, born June 29, 1991) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

By trading for Kawhi Leonard early Wednesday, Ujiri reiterated that message — loudly. With a healthy Leonard , new coach Nick Nurse's Raptors would be as deep and versatile as any team in the What the Spurs won ' t be, though, is a real contender . Ironically, they have become a Western

Toronto will not be putting the same team on the court this season, but will the Raptors remain a force in the top-heavy Eastern Conference?

Let's take a look at what happened last season and this offseason before delving into the cases for and against.

What happened last season?

The odds were stacked against Canada's lone NBA franchise throughout the playoffs despite Toronto being the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors dropped their first game of the postseason to the Magic, and from that point on, there were plenty of doubters. They would go on to defeat the Magic, winning the next four games.

In the second round, the Raptors were pushed to a deciding Game 7 against the 76ers with the game (and series) ending on an unforgettable buzzer-beater from the corner to win it all, courtesy of Kawhi Leonard.

The genius of Kyle Lowry’s golden parachute extension

  The genius of Kyle Lowry’s golden parachute extension Kyle Lowry’s championship bonus shows the Raptors take care of their stars.

Nathaniel Friedman attempts to make sense of the trade that sent Kawhi to Canada for DeMar DeRozan and pieces.

Swapping DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green makes the Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright, Fred Van Vleet, and Norman Powell all remain in Toronto. Even if Kawhi is a one-year rental, the Raptors have a ceiling as high as any team in the East .

The next series was a matchup between the top two seeds in the East — the Raptors were underdogs to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The tables turned when Toronto was down 2-0 in the series but pulled out a victory in double overtime in Game 3. Much like the first round, it was four wins in a row, and the Raptors booked their spot in the NBA Finals.

The Leonard-led Raptors then took down the Warriors and captured the title with a 114-110 victory in Game 6.

What happened this offseason?

The Raptors lost Leonard in free agency. He signed a three-year deal with the Clippers worth $103 million. His presence will be missed dearly in Canada, as he led the team with a whopping 30.5 points per game in the postseason.

The genius of Kyle Lowry’s golden parachute extension

  The genius of Kyle Lowry’s golden parachute extension Drew Brees discusses Teddy Bridgewater and the recent Saints performance.

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor . That part is done. The next challenge? And while we don’ t know where their notoriety would have reached without that non- Raptor visibility, perhaps The Raptors are contenders this season, but there’d be no signs of slowing down in the years to come if

Spurs sending Kawhi Leonard to Raptors " would be a disaster for both teams". July 13 2018. Your browser does not support the audio element. If healthy, Leonard contributes to a team with potential Finals hopes in the East next season and brings in newfound optimism for a fan base that is in a

Leonard wasn't the only blow the Raptors took in free agency. Danny Green also set sail for Los Angeles, joining the Lakers on a two-year, $30 million contract. Although he didn't necessarily light up the scoreboard the way Leonard did, Green played in 80 games during the regular season, averaging 27.7 minutes per game, a stable presence throughout the season, especially when Leonard, Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet were out of the lineup.

MORE: Leonard describes Raptors' season, fans as "special"

On the positive side, Lowry signed a one-year, $31 million extension, keeping him in Canada through the 2020-21 season. Lowry averaged 15.0 points per game and led the team with 6.6 assists per game in the playoffs. At 33 years old, the 13-year veteran proved last season that he is capable of showing up in the big moments.

Taking a look at the coaching during the offseason, Nick Nurse led Team Canada in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. His squad, missing notable players such as first-round pick RJ Barrett, went 2-3 at the tournament with wins over Senegal in the group stage and Jordan in the classification round. It would be unfair to judge Nurse's FIBA squad in comparison to the Raptors, but Team Canada's performance at the World Cup left much to be desired (21st out of 32 teams).

First Look at Toronto Raptors' 2018-19 NBA Championship Rings and Banner Revealed

  First Look at Toronto Raptors' 2018-19 NBA Championship Rings and Banner Revealed The 2019-20 NBA season is officially underway on Tuesday night. And of course, the time honored tradition is to kick things off with the defending NBA Champions. This year, that team is the Toronto Raptors, who beat the odds last June, and now get to face off against the Zion Williamson-less New Orleans Pelicans. Prior to the game, the Raptors received their official championship rings for their Finals win over the Golden State Warriors this past June. The Raptors' official Twitter account provided an up close look at the rings, and they're truly something.A historic ring for a historic accomplishment. #WeTheNorthpic.twitter.

PHILADELPHIA — It was all on display, the complete Kawhi Leonard show, and why it was worth staging in Toronto this season, even against ominous odds of there ever being another. The Raptors on Sunday were facing their most challenging test in their bid for a deep playoff run and

The Raptors have the most wins in the NBA this season, Kawhi Leonard 's first in Toronto. Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images. It's partly why , when people around the Raptors were asked what Leonard is like behind closed doors, the near universal response was a shrug of the shoulders.

As far as the draft goes, the defending champs made one selection, taking Dewan Hernandez with the No. 59 overall pick, the second-to-last player selected. Hernandez is a 22-year-old forward who played in 64 games for the Miami Hurricanes over two seasons but did not play his junior season as the Christian Dawkins scenario surrounded and engulfed a number of collegiate basketball programs and their NCAA eligibility. After Hernandez agreed to a deal in which he would be required to sit out his entire junior season as well as 40 percent of his senior season, he opted to turn pro.

Pascal Siakam will be the cornerstone of the franchise moving forward after signing a four-year, $130 million extension less than a week before the start of the 2019-20 season. The Raptors are clearly confident in the 25-year-old's talent and believe his game will grow as he hits his prime.

VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are set to become unrestricted free agents after this season, but they should still be productive pieces.

Outside of returning players, the Raptors got younger; all acquisitions this offseason are 25 years old or younger. The team signed Stanley Johnson (23), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24), Cameron Payne (25), Isaiah Taylor (25), Devin Robinson (24), and added undrafted players Oshae Brissett (21), Sagaba Konate (22), Terrence Davis (22) and Matt Thomas (25).

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  Three takeaways from NBA opening night A lot more teams still have to make their debuts, but let's access opening night first.New Orleans put up a fight against the defending champion Raptors but were topped in overtime 130-122.

Trade Grades: Raptors win big with Kawhi . But hey, it's the East , without LeBron James, where pretty much any team with at least one star player can reasonably be called a Finals contender . For now, the Raptors have Leonard , and again, assuming he's healthy and motivated, he's a far better

The Toronto Raptors acquired superstar Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on Wednesday, sending DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 Even with LeBron James out West, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers were expected to eclipse the Raptors in the East . So Toronto is going for broke

Why the Raptors will still be a contender in the East

There is a list of reasons why Toronto has a strong chance to stay competitive, and it starts with the key pieces they retained. Lowry, VanVleet, Siakam, Ibaka and Gasol all played major roles in the 2019 playoffs, and that experience should go a long way.

The Eastern Conference is weaker than the Western once again. The Raptors should find themselves in the playoff bracket, and once you're there, you have a legitimate chance. Unfortunately, the Bucks and 76ers are simply more talented on paper. The Raptors will need players to step up, but as previously stated, they have a solid squadron of youngsters with real potential.

Another big factor in the Raptors' favor is the fact that they now know what it takes to make a deep playoff run. However, it is unknown who will step up to fill the massive void left by Leonard.

Probably the No. 1 reason Raptors fans are hopeful is their team's 17-5 record without Leonard in the lineup last season. In fact, Toronto had a higher winning percentage without Leonard than with him last season (.773 compared to .683).

While it's true that numbers don't lie, context is important, and that leads us to why the Raptors will not reach that same level of success.

Why the Raptors won't be a contender in the East

The Raptors won the title at the perfect time, but they will not be able to repeat as champions.

They lost their superstar. That's why a repeat is not happening, period. True, the team went 17-5 without Leonard last season, but those games were strategically picked against lower-caliber teams in an effort to rest Leonard for a championship run — and it worked.

But in this era of the NBA, a team often needs multiple All-Stars in order to win it all. The Warriors won multiple Finals with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. The 2016 Cavs took down the Warriors with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Lowry, VanVleet, Green, Siakam and Gasol were solid, but they aren't as strong as other supporting casts. "Superteams" are the new norm. Durant pairing with Irving in Brooklyn and James recruiting Anthony Davis to the Lakers further proves that you need multiple top-notch competitors to win in this league. Just look at Leonard himself persuading Paul George to ask for a way out of Oklahoma City.

According to Sportsbook Review, Toronto is in the middle of the pack with the 12th-best odds to win the NBA Finals this season. Adding insult to injury, the favorite is... the Clippers.

Rivers addresses late substitution of Kawhi: 'I didn't think we were going to win' .
Kawhi Leonard's load management became one of the biggest talking points in the league last season, and it's already sparked controversy just three games into his tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers. With 4:15 remaining in Saturday's affair and L.A. trailing the Phoenix Suns 115-103, head coach Doc Rivers substituted Leonard out of the game for Moe Harkless. The Clippers would immediately battle back and pulled as close as seven points. However, Leonard remained on the bench until the 1:34 mark. Rivers cited a 30-35 minutes limit for the reigning Finals MVP and wanted to adhere to that as Leonard was already at 31 when he exited the matchup.

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