Raptors are NBA champs — as busy post-season hunting in full swing


Raptors are NBA champs — as busy post-season hunting in full swing


Friday, June 21, 2019

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THE newly crowned NBA champions, Toronto Raptors, were offered at $15.00 by JustBet at the start of the season while the beaten finalist, Golden State Warriors came in at $1.50 .

The Raptors beat the regular season, top-performing Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and advanced to their inaugural NBA Finals where they went on to claim their first hold on the Larry O'Brien Trophy by defeating the two-time defending champions, Golden State Warriors in six games.

It was thought, as the play-offs approached, that the Warriors (who ended their 40-year NBA Finals drought in 2015) would face the Bucks (whose last Finals appearance was 45 years ago), but the Raptors had other ideas.

The Bucks won the first two games of the Eastern Finals series and appeared to be well on their way, but lost the next four to have their dreams shattered. Kawhi Leonard and his Raptors then took on the defending champions, won Game 1 at home and never looked back. Granted, the Warriors were besieged with injuries, but that is part of the game and we now look to next season.

But, before next season gets here, there will be some very interesting moves in the off season.

The Warriors remain confident that they can retain Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant this summer.

The topic of their pending free agency has been the underlying conversation during the latter part of the season, but it took on even more significance after Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the Finals and Thompson suffered a torn left ACL in Game 6.

These potentially career-altering injuries should not affect Golden State's pursuit of either player but, while the widespread belief is that Thompson will re-sign, Durant has been rumoured to be eyeing New York (Knicks or Brooklyn Nets) and possibly the LA Clippers. The answer will be revealed in the next few weeks.

A big trade, however, has apparently already been decided: Anthony Davis will be moving from the New Orleans Pelicans to the LA Lakers. Davis, who averaged 25.9 points, 12 rebounds and 3.9 assists this year, has been the subject of trade rumours since he requested a trade in the middle of the season, which did not materialise.

Now that the Pelicans have secured the #1 overall selection in this year's NBA draft lottery, and will go with Duke phenom Zion Williamson, the expectation is they can build around him after they release Davis. New Orleans will get in return Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks, including the number 4 pick in the 2019 draft.

The Lakers are continuing to seek acquisitions during the off season and reportedly have interests in Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Irving, who won the 2016 NBA championship with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, plans to opt out of his $21.3 million deal with the Celtics this off season, and has previously expressed his desire to play alongside Davis.

The Charlotte Hornets can offer Walker a supermax dea,l but competing for a championship could sway him to take less money and join ranks with James and Davis (and Irving).

Additionally, team owner Michael Jordan has deliberately avoided the luxury tax in his tenure and therefore, Walker's days as a Hornet may soon be over. The 29-year-old point guard averaged 25.6 points and 5.9 assists on 43 per cent shooting from the field last season.

How Kawhi Leonard would fit in the Lakers' line-up isn't clear, but he enters free agency following one of the best post-season runs ever. He averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds on 49 per cent shooting from the field during the play-offs. The Lakers would indeed have a dream team if they were to sign Leonard, but they may be better served by looking to fill out the roster with some much-needed sharpshooters instead — Seth Curry, Danny Green, and JJ Redick may be possible targets.

The LA Clippers and NY Knicks are also pursuing Leonard, while the Raptors will make a strong effort to keep their star forward. The Lakers would give Kawhi the best chance of winning a title next season; the Clippers would provide an opportunity to lead another talented team to its first championship meanwhile he has already won it all in Toronto. He may very well remain in Canada since he is now the face of a strong team that is returning with the likes of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet. Decisions, decisions.

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