Even before the trade between Toronto and San Antonio went down that sent The Claw up North, most concluded that Leonard in Toronto would be a 1-year fling. As the season went on and the wins were racking up for the Raptors, a new question arose. Could Kawhi stay if Toronto wins the Finals? So, here we are in the off-season after the Raptors claim their first title in franchise history. Let’s revisit that question now that Free Agency is just around the corner.
Kawhi dominates East
The Milwaukee Bucks may have finished with the best record in the entire league, but that didn’t seem to matter. Toronto beat the two best teams in the conference on their way to the finals; The Bucks and 76ers. This is important because both of these teams could lose marquee players during Free Agency that would hurt their chances tremendously. Khris Middleton of the Bucks had a career year, snagging his first all-star selection. The Dallas Mavericks already made it public that they would pursue Middleton relentlessly. If the Bucks lose Middleton, Milwaukee can kiss their title hopes goodbye. This is the same case with the 76ers and Jimmy Butler. Butler is going to schedule meetings with 3 or 4 teams before making a final decision. Among those should be the Lakers, Miami, Houston, and Philly. Why would Kawhi not come back if those teams lose key players?
End of an Era?
During their Finals match-up with Golden State, the Warriors suffered two catastrophic injuries. A ruptured Achilles for Kevin Durant and a torn ACL for Klay Thompson. Durant will likely miss all of next season while Klay has a chance to make a very late return. The Warriors are basically down and out; also likely to lose Kevin Durant to Free Agency. This almost guarantees that if Toronto were to make the Finals again, they wouldn’t have to face one of the greatest teams ever assembled again.
It seems that the Raptors organization would be content with running this season back with the same team. The players have expressed their agreement with that statement as well. If the Raptors manage to bring everyone back, then it wouldn’t be a bad decision to stay for the Fun Guy. As a matter of fact, Toronto could possibly bring in some savvy veterans for the right money to help them with another title run. Kawhi Leonard staying with the Raptors is a real possibility, so don’t write them off just yet.