Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It hasn't even been a week since the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title, and it feels as if the entire NBA landscape has changed.
- Anthony Davis is teaming up with LeBron James.
- The Utah Jazz have decided it's time to truly contend by trading for Mike Conley.
- Al Horford has joined Kyrie Irving as a potential Boston Celtics defector.
- The New Orleans Pelicans suddenly have the NBA's brightest long-term future.
It's the NBA, so everything is impacted.
My question for you guys ... how do you view all this change through the lens of the Toronto Raptors?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): There's still so much unknown that I'm not sure how it impacts them yet. The biggest moves have been made in the Western Conference and there's still a lot to be determined when it comes to their biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference, those being the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
Plus, we still have no idea what Kawhi Leonard is going to do. That's going to be the first and biggest domino to fall for the Raptors.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Not just the Raptors, the entire league...
Also, are we forgetting that the Raptors just won the NBA championship? Why would they be worried? Everyone is loading up to beat them. As the great Ric Flair says, to be the Man, you gotta beat the Man.
Adams: If Kawhi leaves, in all likelihood it's to head out west. You're telling me that you think the Western Conference getting stronger doesn't have any impact on Kawhi's decision?
Rafferty: I'm not sure it does. If he really wants to live in Los Angeles, I don't think these trades stop him from leaving the Raptors.
Gay: He's not leaving. (Ask me again tomorrow and that answer might change).
Adams: Maybe you're right. Maybe you're wrong. We don't really know, of course, but you wouldn't at least entertain the idea that Davis heading to the Lakers, Conley heading to an already good Jazz team and the Celtics looking more feeble by the day ultimately helps Toronto's pitch in keeping him to run it back?
I agree with Carlan - everyone is loading up to beat them. But if the Raptors aren't reloading themselves, that's a foregone conclusion that someone will beat them.
Gay: Toronto's pitch ended with a championship. All these other moves don't matter.
Rafferty: That's what I think. If Kawhi is going to leave, I'm guessing he's known for a while.
Gay: I honestly think that before the season started he knew he was going to L.A. Now that he's won and seen what winning is like in Toronto and knowing that if he came back they'd have a chance to win it again ... that's where the hang up is. Had they lost in the second round to the 76ers, there would be no debate he'd be on his way to L.A. But they won. Things have changed.
Adams: Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that the Raptors still had an uphill climb to retain him even after winning a title. Saying their pitch ended and entering June 30 with a giant shrug emoji in the form of convincing him to stay feels a little underwhelming.
Rafferty: What's happened the last few days will definitely make Toronto's pitch stronger. I'm just saying it might not ultimately matter because there's a good chance Kawhi has known what he's going to do for days, weeks or possibly months.
Plus, if Kawhi leaves, competing for a championship next season probably isn't a priority of his. It's likely to move back home and be on a team that has the cap space to build something around him in ways other teams - including the Raptors - can't.
Gay: Lol definitely...
What more do the Raptors need to build? They're defending champions.
Rafferty: Sure, but it's a lot harder to repeat.
Adams: OK so let's take it a step further to bring it back to what we know has already happened. Let's make the (knock on wood) assumption that he decides to stay. How would you rank where Toronto stands RIGHT NOW. Without knowing what happens next?
Gay: They're the favourites until proven otherwise. They knocked off the team everyone thought would never lose. They beat the Bucks pretty handedly, took down the 76ers and rolled through the regular season. Siakam will get better, OG returns. The team will have a championship swagger. How are we not just assuming they aren't the favourites already?
Rafferty: If they bring it back, I agree, they should be considered favourites.
Gay: I will say this: the 76ers, if they return the same team, could be trouble. (Yes, I'm overlooking the Bucks).
I'll say this, too: their biggest threat will come from the East, not the West.
Adams: I disagree. I mean, they SQUEAKED by Philly, who will almost certainly be better with another year of seasoning under the belts of Embiid and Simmons. If they bring back Jimmy Butler, having an entire training camp and an actual full year to build towards ... they will be a problem.
I have the Raptors third in the East entering next season, even if everyone is back.
Gay: We're talking about playoff seeds now ... boring.
As long as they're healthy, they'll be making a strong defence of their title.
Adams: Lol Carlan wants to downplay Anthony freaking Davis getting traded to the same team as LeBron James and say it has no impact on the defending champs ... but then yawns at looking towards next season? C'mon now.
Gay: I'm pretty sure we all just watched the Raptors beat the Warriors, a team with five All-Stars and a Finals MVP off the bench. I also remember what happened the last time Kawhi faced LeBron in the Finals. That LeBron was young, this Kawhi is better than he was then. I don't think I need to be worried about an ancient LeBron and AD.
Adams: Forget Mike Conley as well, who could be Utah's version of Kyle Lowry next season, the no frills floor general that pushes them to another level. Utah is now shaping up to be the closest thing to the 2018-19 Raptors.
Rafferty: Oh wow. You went there.
Adams: YEAH I DID SCOTT.
Gay: You mean future Hall of Famer Kyle Lowry?
Rafferty: Don't get me and Micah started on Lowry's HOF candidacy.
Gay: Well ... there really isn't a debate.
Adams: I'm with you on the Lakers. I have serious doubts about their ability to add pieces around those guys. But the Donovan Mitchell we saw over the second half of the season is a scary thought on this Utah team.
Gay: What about the Mitchell we saw in the playoffs?
All I'm saying is that the Conley trade...
- Makes another potentially great team in the West, which COULD make Kawhi think twice about heading west
- Makes Utah a legitimate contender to perhaps see Toronto in next year's Finals, when the Raptors would see a somewhat similar version of themselves.
Gay: I mean I was told the same thing when CP3 and Harden teamed up and look how that ended up - or looks to be ending up.
All I know is this: Toronto made the best pitch in free agency history by winning a title. Nothing will ever top that. If Kawhi leaves, Raptor fans shouldn't be upset. He honoured his contract to the fullest and brought the city and country a chip.
I think he stays, though. None of these moves out West or East is affecting that. If we've learned anything from the little bit we know about Kawhi, the man will do what HE wants to do.
Hopefully for Raptors fans, that's stay in the 6ix.
Adams: Conley going to the Jazz is literally nothing like CP3 and Harden teaming up in Houston but we'll save that for another day 🙂
Gay: We got time.
Ageing point guard teaming up with a volume scorer ... you're right, let's save it.
Rafferty: Calling Harden a "volume scorer" might be one of the most disrespectful things I've read in a long time.
Adams: So there you have it. Either none of this impacts the Raptors or all of this impacts the Raptors.
How fitting on the eve of the wildest two weeks in the NBA where insanity unfolds, nobody agrees on anything and we're all left wondering what will happen next.
Welcome to the 2019 "offseason"!
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.