By Aaron Zaretsky
“Canada the NBA title is yours! There is a new champion and it’s a team from Toronto, Canada! We the North are now We the Champions! The Raptors, the 2019 NBA champs!” –Adam Silver, National Basketball Association Commissioner
That was a fun ride! The 2019 Toronto Raptors playoff run could not have ended more perfectly. Being the last team standing, shocking the NBA world, and raising the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time ever! Below it is explained how the Raptors can repeat as NBA champions.
With the NBA regular season tonight, it’s time to look ahead to the 2019-20 season. The first time ever trend will continue, as the Raptors will host the first ever NBA Christmas game outside the U.S. against the Boston Celtics. Two weeks earlier, Kawhi Leonard will make his anticipated return to Toronto with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Speaking of Kawhi, the Raptors run it back aspirations took a big hit when he decided to go home and join the Los Angeles Clippers with his friend Paul George. Thanks to Kawhi for helping the Raptors win it all, but he is now the enemy. As of right now the Raptors are not championship contenders. But they can be before the playoffs begin.
Raptors are projected to be middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference come next spring. Their championship core is mostly intact with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green (who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers), being the only subtractions. An addition will be OG Anunoby who is ready to bounce back after an injury plagued season, missing the entire 2019 playoffs. Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, and Raptors heart and soul, Kyle Lowry, are back for at least one more year. They have an emerging superstar in Pascal Siakam (a.k.a Spicy P) but what their missing is a sure fire superstar.
There is more balance in the NBA as there is no unanimous favourite to win the championship. The powerhouse Golden State Warriors no longer has Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson will miss most of the upcoming season with a torn ACL. The Clippers have improved with Leonard and George, the Lakers added Anthony Davis to play with LeBron James, and Houston reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook. Over in the East, the All-Star duos in Milwaukee and Philadelphia stay the same, while Boston replaces Kyrie Irving, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets, with Kemba Walker.
The uncertainty of who will become NBA champions will make for an exciting, dramatic, regular season and playoffs. Therefore, if the Raptors are middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference by the trade deadline, management can decide to boost their team by acquiring a disgruntled superstar or a couple all-stars, there is usually a few each season. This would make back-to-back champs a realistic possibility. Plus, they will need luck and to be healthy, which are underrated factors in a team’s season. Raptors had good fortune and friendly rims at Scotiabank Arena during last year’s championship run.
If the Raptors are buyers at the trade deadline, it means they would not be sellers, which could be costly as Ibaka, Gasol, and VanVleet are free agents next summer. If the season does not go as expected, management could decide to trade their looming free agents and acquire assets that can help them for years to come. Even though Lowry recently signed a contract extension he could also be traded if the Raptors become sellers. If they go for another title, fall short, and lose their free agents, they would get nothing in return which would be a serious problem for the following seasons. But that bridge will be crossed at a later date.
Raptors can run it back and their 25th season begins on October 22 with a championship ceremony, before hosting the New Orleans Pelicans.