Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors to play in Los Angeles after winning a championship as the undisputed best player puts the Raptors in unprecedented territory.
He's quite literally the first "best player on a title team" to leave for another team immediately on the heels of winning it all.
Without Leonard, the Raptors could opt to fast track the rebuild.
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They could also decide to simply bring everyone else back, keep the veterans around that are on expiring contracts and put up a spirited fight to the best of their abilities.
Should they opt to go that route, what are realistic expectations for the 2019-20 season? We put that question to our Global NBA.com staff.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think it's safe to assume the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers will be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference next season. After that, it's kind of up in the air the amount of player movement there has been this offseason. The Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat all figure to be better, although we'll have to wait and see how all of their new pieces fit.
To me, these Raptors are still good enough to be lumped in with those teams. Maybe not the point where they're a No. 3 seed, but I could see them fighting for homecourt advantage if Pascal Siakam takes another leap - which he should - and everyone stays healthy, putting them in the 4-6 range.
I don't, however, see them as legitimate contenders unless they can pull off a big move ahead of the trade deadline. Maybe they can win a first-round series with the right matchup, but anything more seems unlikely without Leonard.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Official over/unders for the following season typically are not released until at least September. If I had to put a number on it, 42.5 sounds about right and at that number, I'd probably take the over.
43-39 would have netted the 6 seed in the Eastern Conference last season with a solid four-game cushion over the 9 seed.
Assuming that Pascal Siakam continues on an All-Star trajectory, he's a good enough player to lead a team of dependable and versatile role players to the playoffs. Remember, this is a squad that went 17-5 in games that Leonard missed last season. They obviously won't match that 63-win pace (now THAT would be quite the story), but it's enough evidence to suggest that this team will still be competitive in the East.
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Could the Raptors threaten to win in the mid to high 40s? Sure!
The major issues, of course, would come in the playoffs. With a top-heavy Eastern Conference, they'd be staring at a 1st Round series against either the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics or Indiana Pacers. Milwaukee and Philadelphia look to be in a different class while even Boston and Indiana figure to have too much firepower for Toronto as currently constructed.
I'd expect a proud group to finish somewhere in the 5-7 range before losing in the 1st Round in a competitive 6-game series.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Even without Kawhi, I think the Raptors finish anywhere between the Nos. 4 and 7 seeds in the East.
I truly trust Pascal Siakam to step up as the leading scorer of this team. I believe veterans like Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka can keep this team afloat. I think guys like Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell will continue to improve, and I believe that OG Anunoby can get back to the player he was in 2017-18.
The only two teams I can definitively say are better than a Kawhi-less Raptors squad are the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. I would say the Boston Celtics are better too, but we'll have to see how that team produces with Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward sharing the offensive load.
Aside from those three teams, I think Toronto will still be in the mix and possibly even ahead of the likes of the Pacers, Nets, Heat, Pistons, Magic, Hawks, etc.
One thing is for certain - in my mind, they are definitely still a playoff team. How far can they go with Siakam as their leading scorer? I'd say the second round of the playoffs. But that wouldn't be a bad result after losing one of the best players in the NBA.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors go from being the favourites in the East to a bottom four playoff team.
I'd expected them to win around 42 games, which is what the Brooklyn Nets, who finished sixth, had this year. I can't see the Raptors' ceiling being any higher than that. Their team will still be solid, however almost every team in the division either got better or maintained a certain level.
Pascal Siakam will be fine in the role as the go-to-guy, he might even become an All-Star, but he's not Kawhi Leonard.
I don't expect Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster to sit around and hope for the best with this roster, though. I expect them to hit the phones and try and improve the team before the season starts.
Do they go out and try and get Bradley Beal from Washington? Or Kevin Love from Cleveland? Heck, even going after DeMar DeRozan might be in the cards. Will that make the Raptors championship contenders? No, but it puts them back in a position to be ready to pull the trigger on a move that could put them over the edge like they did last summer.
This may be a retool rather than a rebuild.
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