Hot Take Marathon: Time to Blow Up The Raptors
USA TODAY Sports
After a dizzying NBA offseason, it’s easy to forget that the Toronto Raptors are still NBA Champions. And they’ll hold that distinction for another ten months. The team and the fans deserve to revel in that glory.
That said, president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri would be wise to sell-high on his championship core and break up the band. It’s time to blow up the Raptors.
There are two main principles driving this conviction. The first is rather obvious: Kawhi Leonard took his talents to Long Beach this summer.
It’s hard to overestimate just how incredible Kawhi’s postseason performance was. He turned in a monster 4.9 win shares just in the playoffs. (The highest Michael Jordan ever produced in a postseason was 4.8.) Everything ran through Kawhi during Toronto’s championship run.
To win at the highest level in the NBA, you need elite talent. Teams like the 2004 Detroit Pistons are an exception to the rule; without the very best of the very best, it’s next to impossible to win a title in the Association.
The Raptors sans Kawhi have a great mix of veteran players and rising stars, but are severely hobbled without Leonard. Betonline.AG has Toronto’s expected win total set at 45.5 games. I would hammer the under here.
Let’s say the Raptors do win around 45 games, however. Then what? Does this team have what it takes to compete with more athletic clubs like the Celtics or the Pacers, let alone the likes of Philly or Milwaukee?
Ujiri is no fool. He can read these tea leaves. Trading DeMar DeRozan was a shrewd move, but undoubtedly the right one. It’s time to take a similar leap. Better to get a jumpstart on a rebuild than find yourself on the treadmill of NBA mediocrity.
Therein lies the second chapter to this story. We saw teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets pay handsome sums to land star players. There was a real arms race this summer, one that will continue throughout the season.
Toronto has impactful veterans like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol, among others. Ujiri has the ammo to strip desperate contenders of future draft picks and promising assets. The Celtics could use a center. The Lakers a point guard.
The Raptors have the goods to load up for a true rebuild. Pascal Siakam, among others, would be a great centerpiece for an up-and-coming team. That was the promise of the Kawhi trade to begin with, to push all your chips in the center of the table and roll the dice.
Lady Luck shined brightly on Toronto, and Ujiri and Co. walked away champions. While the team nurses their championship hangovers, however, the front office ought to start making some phone calls.