To all the Toronto Raptor fans out there mourning, I have a question for you.
You just upgraded from a minivan to a Tesla X!
On twitter, all of these NBA Players like Paul George and Lou Williams are talking about loyalty, but that’s so naive because loyalty is dead.
We should be applauding Masai Ujiri for having the testicular fortitude and unmitigated gall to make the upgrade trade. If you’re sitting in a job without trying to grow or advance, and you’re content making $17 an hour, then something is wrong with YOUR mindset. That is exactly what the Raptors have been for years, in playoff purgatory, never advancing, and led by DeMar DeRozan.
And that’s palatable to you?
Take a hard look at reality folks. You just got Kawhi Leonard, one of the five best players in the NBA, and a former Finals MVP. The Raptors have flippantly been the unequivocal laughing stock of the association for years, and now the laughs will cease for at least a year.
I do understand some of the trepidation that exists because Leonard could essentially be a one-year rental if management is improvident. The media will continue to perpetuate the hackneyed narrative throughout the season that Leonard wants to return to Los Angeles to play, and that might actually be true. But there is a chance that he could stay, just like Paul George did with Oklahoma City.
And if he leaves?
Then the Raptors will inevitably lose a little playoff juice until they draft another great player. But keep in mind that since it is the eastern conference, making the playoffs shouldn’t pose to be too much of a challenge. However, with the Boston Celtics predicted to be a finals favorite, and the astronomical rise of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors would have been relegated to the middle of the pack anyway with Derozan as the head of the snake.
Leonard is better than DeRozan in every sense of the word. While the latter was known for his midrange game, the former shoots more efficiently from midrange. Where three-point shooting was virtually nonexistent for DeRozan at times, Leonard is a career 37% three-point shooter. Leonard also edges DeRozan in free throw percentage, at 85%. The former San Antonio Spur should be a seamless fit within the malleable raptors offense under first-year head coach, Nick Nurse.
I’m obviously not here to placate emotions and I don’t think that it’s a verboten thing to say that DeRozan wasn’t going to lead the Raptors to the promised land. We all saw the interchangeable playoff meltdowns by DeRozan and Kyle Lowry last few years. That won’t happen with Leonard, a proven sagacious star. If Leonard embraces the culture in Toronto, this could turn into one of the best years that the Raptors have ever had. The defense just got exponentially better with the additions of Leonard and Danny Green, another proven winner. Coming off of an already great year, with these additions the Raptors have positioned themselves to be at worst- the second best team in the Eastern Conference and makes for a compelling matchup with the Celtics, predictably in the Eastern Conference Finals.
So take it, year-by-year folks. Leonard is rocking the Raptors jersey for at least the better part of a year unless he gets shipped off to Los Angeles before the trade deadline, and even some compensation would still be a win for the Raptors.
Stop worrying about the past, and focus on this season.
Toronto just landed its biggest basketball star since Vince Carter.
Follow me on twitter @mark_a_gilbert