On July 18th, Shams Charania sent out a tweet in the early hours of the morning:
San Antonio and Toronto are engaged in serious talks on a trade centered on Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 18, 2018
Since then, the world of Raptors basketball has gone completely insane without playing a single meaningful game. Tonight, that changes.
Kawhi Leonard is a superstar, one of a handful of players in the league with the capability of dominating whenever he steps on the court. With superstars come goals, and this year’s version of the Raptors have their sights set higher than ever before. Thought the team was the first seed last year, let’s not forget that preseason projections were very modest, with an over-under total at 48.5. Coming off an incredible regular season and only upgrading talent means expectations have skyrocketed. Standing in the way of the Raptors are the Boston Celtics, who don’t possess a player of Kawhi’s caliber but instead many solid ones. The goal this year is to beat the Celtics and reach the Finals, no if’s and’s or but’s.
How to reach it
The headline of these Raptors is their defensive prowess. While many complained about DeMar’s issues on one end, there won’t be much complaining about Kawhi. The superstar is undoubtedly the best perimeter defender around and adding him to an already strong defensive lineup will make the team almost impossible to score on. We saw it during the preseason with tipped balls and expiring shot clocks galore, now imagine what it’ll look like when the games count. With Pascal Siakam as the center and OG Anunoby next to Kawhi on the wing, the Raptors will employ some incredible defensive lineups. Even either Jonas Valanciunas-Serge Ibaka at center lineups will put up good defensive ratings because of the other four on the court.
The offense is strong as well. Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright headline the team’s solid point guard play, with C.J. Miles 2.0 and Intrasquad Practice MVP Danny Green adding some solid shooting. JV is poised for another year of improvement, and new addition Greg Monroe should provide some post offense. And, well, Kawhi Leonard, one of the most efficient offensive players there is.
The regular season is going to drag on- hard. There will be non-stop chatter about Kawhi’s free agency from both the Canadian and US media. If we’ve learned anything from past years, it’s that the playoffs are all that matter. It seems ever so likely the Raptors will not repeat their past ways because they are not the same team.
Prediction: 56 wins