It’s Monday October 7 in Japan, and the Toronto Raptors are getting ready to play the Houston Rockets in their first preseason game.
The team is coming off one of the greatest summers of all time: a summer that was filled with championship confetti, lots of champagne, and tons of parties. The Raptors are missing a very familiar face though this season. The person who brought them to the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history is gone. The team is without superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The question on everyone’s mind is: can the Raptors win back-to-back championships without Leonard?
Not only did the team lose Leonard but also Danny Green who both signed to teams within Los Angeles. Leonard signed to the Clippers whereas Green joined the Lakers.
The Raptors won’t be able to win another ring without Leonard and Green because of the players signed in the off-season.
After losing Leonard and Green, the raptors signed three players to fill the void. The Raptors signed Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Cameron Payne, but will that be enough? Even though they are solid pieces to the team, none of them have Leonard’s and Green’s type of defensive or offensive skills.
What Leonard and Green bring to basketball is championship experience, which is something none of the Raptors off-season signings have. Both Leonard and Green are two-time NBA champions and have won two out of the three NBA finals they have played in.
Leonard is a two-time finals MVP, and also has two NBA defensive player awards. He is coming off his best scoring season with the Raptors, averaging 26 points on 49 per cent shooting from the field.
Green is coming off his second highest scoring season in his career, averaging 10.3 points per game. He also had his highest shooting percentage from 3 with 45 per cent from the field.
The biggest challenge the Raptors will face is both Payne and Johnson only played a combined 27 games last season with Payne averaging 8 points and Johnson with 5 points per game. Hollis-Jefferson played 59 games last season but only averaged 9 points per game. Combining all three of their points together they only averaged 23 points whereas Leonard averaged 26 on his own. Even though the Raptors signed new players, none of them combined are able to fill the point total Leonard had last season.
Not only was it hard for the Raptors to lose two key players, but the Eastern Conference got tougher with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joining the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant is one of the best players in the league and being alongside Irving will soon make them one of the best duos in the league. Teams like the Boston Celtics added All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, the Miami Heat added Jimmy Butler, and the Philadelphia 76ers were able to sign Al Horford; all are great additions to these teams and will make it even more difficult to beat them.
The Raptors will need everyone to step up throughout this season in a big way if they are looking to become back-to-back NBA champions.
Once you win, you become the team to beat, and the Toronto Raptors have the biggest target on their backs heading into the 2019-2020 NBA season.