Kawhi Leonard is set to play for only his second NBA franchise this upcoming season when he steps foot on the court in a Toronto Raptors jersey. Leonard was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Raptors for Demar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl -along with a 2019 first-round pick (The Raptors also received SG Danny Green) after 7 seasons in San Antonio included an NBA championship, NBA Finals MVP and two defensive player of the year awards Leonard was sent packing after missing almost all of the 2017-2018 season due to injury. What made the situation difficult for the Spurs was that team doctor cleared Leonard however he refused to come back and play because he felt like he wasn’t ready.
That move may have ultimately lead to his early exit from his only NBA home. The Raptors traded a huge ransom for a player with tremendous upside but with only one year left on his controct, there’s room to wonder whether Leonard will resign in Toronto. The Raptors aren’t exactly the historic franchise that the Spurs are. Since 1999 the San Antonio Spurs have won five NBA championships. In that same span, the Toronto Raptors have been to the NBA’s second round five times with no finals appearances.
Could Kawhi Leonard be the piece that Toronto has been missing for as long as their franchise has been in existence? Vince Carter wasn’t it, neither was Chris Bosh or Demar Derozan. It’s Kawhi’s turn and he’ll have the entire franchise handed over to him where as in San Antonio he played with Spurs legends Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobli every year of his career (At least 2 of the 3). In Toronto he’ll actually have the opportunity to win a championship for a franchise that has no real “Legend.”
Yeah, the Raptors have had great players, but none ate truly legends. At least not in Raptors uniforms.
If Kawhi can win a championship this season with the Raptors or at least get to the finals then I am almost curtain he will resign with the Raptors when he becomes a free agent next summer. The opportunity to cement himself as a legend at his own franchise, in his own city, in his own country will simply be good for the all-star forward to pass up. His uncle and the rest of hid camp leaked information that Kawhi wanted to go to the Los Angeles Lakers via trade but after LeBron signed to the Lakers his interest soon swayed to the Clippers.
But why is that? Possibly because the clippers are like the Raptors in that they have no true legends either. I guess Chris Paul can count but with no championship on his resume it’s a hard argument to make. I believe Kawhi Leonard wants the chance go take over an NBA franchise and become one of their best players.. but by himself. He could have stayed and not requested a trade from a team with LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol along with Head Coach Greg Popovich but he just needed his chance and he’s got it.
Turning Toronto into a championship city will be a steep climb, however I believe that Kawhi Leonard is up to the task. If he can get back to 100 percent while giving 100 percent effort, then he can take the Raptors to the eastern conference finals for years to come. With LeBron James out west the path has never been clearer for the Raptors to make a run at the finals. Derozan to Leonard is an upgrade offensively and defensively and it also upgrades the Raptors chances of making the NBA Finals. The only question will be can the Raptors obtain enough pieces over time to build a true championship squad? Only time’ll tell.