The Toronto Raptors won a franchise record 59 games, finished first in the East and were still swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. They decided to fire the coach of the year in Dwane Casey and traded away the face of the franchise, the all-time leading scorer in Raptors history DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. Leonard played in only nine games last season so all eyes will be on him once again.
When he’s healthy Kawhi Leonard is the best two-way player in the game. In his six years, he’s been All-Defense in four of them and has already won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Last season was different for Leonard and the Spurs. He missed the first 27 games, played off-and-on over the next few weeks and then after a break he played on January 13th against the Nuggets and that would be his final game of the season.
Leonard has taken leaps since he first arrived in San Antonio. He was just a defensive minded player who developed into a great scorer. The Raptors are getting a better player than DeRozan if Kawhi is healthy. What happens if he gets another injury? What happens if he tweaks something? Will he act like he did last season? These are all questions that have Raptors fans worried and we don’t have the answers.
Kawhi needs to play basketball this season. He has to push through and finally play especially since he will be a free agent at the end of next season. In his last healthy season, he averaged 25 ppg on 48% shooting and 38% from 3-point range. It will be his first time in a new system, the Raptors have a new coach in Nick Nurse and he’s in a new conference.
The Raptors still have a good team. A new coach and a new All-Star might be what they need going forward in a new look Eastern Conference. LeBron James has left so Kawhi Leonard just might be the best player in the conference.