Kawhi Leonard has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and team up with Paul George. It is a bittersweet ending to the Raptors championship run, and it has kick-started an inevitable rebuild. If there is anyone who can lead this team back to glory, it is Masai Ujiri. The architect of the Raptors championship refused to mortgage this team’s future on a superstar who seemed focused on Los Angeles. Kawhi wanted to go home: that is understandable. While there may be some resentment towards him leaving, the man did bring a championship to Toronto, and a statue of the shot will probably be placed right outside Scotiabank arena. With Kawhi Leonard leaving, what’s next?
I have written extensively on Pascal Siakam. With Kawhi Leonard gone, someone is going to have to step into the primary scorer role on the team. Siakam is most likely the best candidate. Lowry and Gasol are not getting younger, and it is Siakam who is the most unpredictable scorer on the team. Siakam can score from the corner three, although most of his baskets come at the rim, and there have been traces of a pull up jumper from the midrange. Siakam is very efficient, and I expect that to improve as he tweaks his jump shot to its optimal form. Pascal Siakam is probably going to be the go to scorer (THE MAN) next season, bar any unforeseen trades.
OG Anunoby is a solid athlete who has good defensive instincts. His offensive game needs work, but he can score the three off the catch, and sometimes he will let out a thunderous dunk. He hasn’t had the opportunity to showcase his talents on the offensive end that much as there were clear cut better options in his position: Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell. The biggest improvement would most likely be his handle. If OG improves his ball handling, he will be able to leverage his athleticism against weaker defenders and drive to the rim. OG is very much a project but if he puts in the work on his handle and his jumper he can improve to being more than just a defensive stopper.
Norman Powell is perhaps my personal favorite. Be it his thunderous dunks, or stepping up in the Bucks series, it’s nice to see Norman Powell do well and flourish. Norman Powell had a bit of a resurgence, and I would bet on him getting the starting role, now that Danny Green is gone. While he was being forced to play the 3, Norman Powell is more of a 2. He quietly shot above 40% from 3 on nearly 3 attempts a game. His improved shooting won the Raptors the Bucks series, and he absolutely deserves more playing time. I expect him to start at the 2 and get upwards of 25 minutes a game. In a retooling season, it is absolutely pivotal to give players opportunities and see what you have.
Fred VanVleet Sr. The only other person on the team to get a FMVP vote. Fred is a shooter, but he is somewhat limited by his athleticism. I do expect him to improve as he gets more minutes, and I am sure that he will continue to develop. For Fred, I think that the key is creating separation from the defender and being able to score better through contact. Those are all skills that come with a bigger role, one that he will receive. Fred is our point guard of the future, and having a mentor like Lowry is invaluable.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 6, 2019
Free agent forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has agreed to a one-year deal with the Toronto Raptors, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Hollis-Jefferson gets fresh opportunity in Raptors development system and sets himself up for 2020 free agency.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 7, 2019
The Raptors have signed Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to cheap short term deals. Their similarities? Long athletic defenders with a questionable jumper. You can teach a guy how to shoot, but you can’t teach motor and athleticism. These are guys I expect to get minutes off the bench, and with the Raptors development staff, they will quite possibly develop into above-average wings. Low risk, medium/high reward.