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The Toronto Raptors are the 2019 NBA Champions. After a tough road to the NBA Playoffs, riddled with injury, trades, and hardship, the Toronto Raptors finally came out on top after years of playing bridesmaid to the Eastern Conferences elite.
Led by their own group of five elite contributors, the Toronto Raptors have changed the narrative of the NBA. They have showed that a team doesn’t need to be loaded with NBA All-Stars and world-beaters to win it all. Sometimes doing things the hard way is also doing it the right way.
The Toronto Raptors boast a team rife with offensive and defensive talent from the top of the bench to the bottom. There is a however a stark difference between their side and the opposing Warriors. Where the Warriors have bought their way to championships with high-value acquisitions, the Toronto Raptors have built their house with blue-collar work-ethic.
Not a single player on the Toronto Raptors’ roster boasts the credentials of a lottery pick. Kawhi Leonard was drafted highest at fifteenth overall, while they also maintain late-round steals like Pascal Siakam and undrafted gems like Fred Vanvleet.
|Player||College (Country)||Draft Position|
|#17 Jeremy Lin||Harvard (USA)||Undrafted (2010)|
|#8 Jordan Loyd tw||Indianapolis (USA)||Undrafted (2016)|
|#23 Fred Vanvleet||Wichita State (USA)||Undrafted (2016)|
|#7 Kyle Lowry||Villanova (USA)||Rd. 1, No. 24 (2006)|
|#20 Jodie Meeks||Kentucky (USA)||Rd. 2, No. 41 (2009)|
|#1 Patrick McCaw||UNLV (USA)||Rd. 2, No. 38 (2016)|
|#24 Norman Powell||UCLA (USA)||Rd. 2, No. 46 (2015)|
|#14 Danny Green||North Carolina (USA)||Rd. 2, No. 46 (2009)|
|#13 Malcolm Miller||Holy Cross (USA)||Undrafted (2015)|
|#3 OG Anunoby||Indiana (USA)||Rd. 1, No. 23 (2017)|
|#2 Kawhi Leonard||San Diego State (USA)||Rd. 1, No. 15 (2011)|
|#15 Eric Moreland||Oregon State (USA)||Undrafted (2014)|
|#25 Chris Boucher||Oregon (Canada)||Undrafted (2017)|
|#43 Pascal Siakam||New Mexico State (Cameroon)||Rd. 1, No. 27 (2016)|
|#9 Serge Ibaka||CB L’Hospitalet (Congo Republic)||Rd. 1, No. 24 (2008)|
|#33 Marc Gasol||Girona (Spain)||Rd. 2, No. 48 (2007)|
The Warriors were always going to be the favourite going into the series. After a significant rest period after sweeping Portland in the Western Conference Finals, they were motivated to finish the Raptors to improve on their dynasty.
The Raptors were too much for the Warriors though. After Kevin Durant’s achilles rupture and Klay Thompson’s ACL tear in the pivotal match, the Warriors didn’t have the firepower to keep up with Toronto.
The Warriors’ legacy will never be forgotten. Having performed in the last five NBA Finals, Golden State will hold their heads up high. However, with two spots on their roster being occupied by highly-paid players who will be out for at least a year, the immediate future looks bleak.
Now that the ’18-’19 season is over, it isn’t too early to be looking forward to the ’19-’20 season. There will surely be shuffling around the league in terms of players and personnel, ensuring it will be one of the most exciting NBA seasons ever!
Ferocious dunk ?? Nasty block
Giannis gonna Giannis ? (via @NBA) pic.twitter.com/0lFHMmpzve
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 23, 2019
Despite going out to the eventual NBA Champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks are the early betting favourites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2020.
The team was rejuvenated this past year and took the top spot in the regular season with a 60-22 record led by MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Milwaukee Bucks have some key decisions to make over some integral pieces going forward.
Nikola Mirotic, who was picked up at the trade deadline, failed to impress in the post-season despite a career regular season. Malcolm Brogdon has proven himself to be the perfect system player for Mike Budenholzer, but is coming off of an injury and will certainly demand a pretty sum on the open market – ditto for sharpshooting big Brook Lopez.
With Antetokounmpo in the fold, the Bucks will always be competitive. But he and the squad will need to improve as their single-minded offensive nature was exploited in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
|Sportsbook||Over 55.5||Under 55.5||Link|
You’ve seen the highs, you’ve seen the lows. Thank you for being home for 47 seasons of memories.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 14, 2019
The Golden State Warriors had a tougher path to the finals than ever before. After beginning the regular season with a number of injuries, they weren’t able to find their groove until late in the season. When they did, they conquered the Western Conference.
It seemed as if the Warriors would cruise to another NBA Championship in 2019, even though Kevin Durant went down with a calf injury in the second-round. The Warriors swept the Blazers, but eagerness with their backs against the wall to Toronto forced them to play Kevin Durant – which resultantly harmed him and his future.
The Warriors have one of the highest player payrolls in the NBA. Kevin Durant has a player option that he is almost certain to opt into considering he will be sidelined for a year. The will also need to decide on the future of injured Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins who proved his play style wasn’t viable against worthy competition.
All signs point to the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty to be over. Their biggest stars are on the wrong side of thirty while they battle a number of injuries and bloated contracts to agents contributors – Iguodala and Livingston in particular. The Warriors have been able to flip the script before, but the odds are certainly against them going forward.
|Sportsbook||Over 47.5||Under 47.5||Link|
“If I was the Lakers I would call the Pelicans back & say please tell us everything you want to get the deal done today.”@stephenasmith adds that if the Lakers get the deal done they’re winning the title next year.@WindhorstESPN | @FirstTake pic.twitter.com/Xp2BjxMB4h
— ShowtimeForum (@ShowtimeForum) June 14, 2019
It is genuinely shocking to see that the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that failed to qualify for the 2019 NBA Playoffs, are in the top four in terms of odds to win the NBA Championship. However, with the likes of LeBron James leading your roster, the chances are always there for you.
Most of the hype comes from the sheer amount of cap space and young assets that the Lakers own. It is no secret that the Lakers covet Anthony Davis, and any front office would be lying if they said an exchange including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma wouldn’t be attractive.
Jarrett Allen’s attempt to block a dunk by Anthony Davis… pic.twitter.com/Xb0ON9TAmx
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 27, 2018
Media tends to focus on the Lakers being a high-profile destination, but it doesn’t do away with the fact that the team suffered through significant dysfunction last year. Magic Johnson and Luke Walton are out while Frank Vogel is in with a team of assistants ready to take his place should he fail to succeed.
Can the Lakers pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis? While also luring away Kyrie Irving from the lure of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets? The star appeal is in the favour of Hollywood, but the Lakers have a lot of rebuilding to do.
|Sportsbook||Over 54.5||Under 54.5||Link|
A forever mood. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/OQ1h42sbjZ
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 14, 2019
The now reigning NBA Champions, led by Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard are shockingly not even in the top three in terms of teams favoured to win next years NBA title. Is it a matter of disrespect to an oft-overlooked franchise? Or will the NBA’s first Non-American Champions prove the world wrong once again?
Most of the Toronto Raptors’ concerns will lie around the teams ability to persuade two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard into staying north of the border and building his legacy with the Toronto Raptors. He will be guaranteed $45 million should he re-sign with the Raptors, so the financial incentive is certainly there.
Pascal Siakam’s double-double (26 PTS, 10 REB) was key to the Raptors winning Game 6 ?#WeTheNorth | #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/9xGa2QU6sr
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) June 14, 2019
The Raptors also have much to solve with their current roster outside of Leonard. Lowry is 33 and Gasol is 34, they are owed $33 million and $25 million (via player option) respectively. They also have to pay Serge Ibaka $23 million in the last year of his contract in 2020. They don’t have much breathing room, so securing Leonard and adding economical assets will be key to their success.
The reigning NBA Champions are sure to put up a fight in the 2020 NBA season, with or without Kawhi Leonard. With the star-like impact of Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanvleet, it seems the Raptors have their future set should Leonard choose otherwise. After the most critical season of their franchise’s history, the Raptors enter their most critical offseason.
|Sportsbook||Over 52.5||Under 52.5||Link|
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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