Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard can change the complexion of the NBA

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With one of the biggest free agency decisions of all time on the horizon, the choice Kawhi Leonard could change the complexion of the whole NBA — not just the Toronto Raptors.

We all know how the decision of Kawhi Leonard can impact the Toronto Raptors next season, we also know how it can affect the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. We are sitting at a crossroads, though. Whatever decision Leonard makes is bound to change the complexion of the NBA.

His options remain the same, with each team providing a litany of pros, cons, amenities, and trinkets that the other cannot provide. All three can offer winning as an incentive, just some more than others.

The whole league is on a knifes edge, though. Whatever Leonard chooses changes the whole landscape of the NBA for years to come, or until the next big free agency decision in 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo decides on his own future.

If Kawhi Leonard were to re-sign with the Raptors, the league would be in a situation is has rarely found itself in for the past few seasons: total parity. Sure, it’s only July 4, but the way the league is shaping up — with the exception of this final big decision — makes it hard to pick one main favorite for the title.

So many teams around the NBA have improved on their rosters in free agency, the Philadelphia 76ers — despite losing Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat — have added the talents of Al Horford and Josh Richardson to their roster, while re-signing Tobias Harris. Richardson becomes the smallest player in the Sixers projected starting line-up. A team whose length gave the Raptors so many problems in seven games this postseason just got even bigger.

The Brooklyn Nets have instantly joined the Sixers in the hunt to be crowned as the kings of the Eastern Conference, adding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to their young and improving roster. Durant likely won’t feature at all next season, but Irving is an improvement on D’Angelo Russell regardless.

Even in the Western Conference, the competition around the Golden State Warriors has improved. The Utah Jazz finally got their point guard to pair with Rudy Gobert, in Mike Conley, adding Bojan Bogdanovic in the process, and with Donovan Mitchell only set to keep progressing, the Jazz suddenly become contenders.

Even the Los Angeles Lakers without Kawhi Leonard should still be viewed as contenders. They have two of the best seven or eight players in the world on their team. One of them is viewed as the greatest of all time — LeBron James — and the other is Anthony Davis.

If Leonard re-signs in Toronto, the NBA heads into a world full of possibilities. The league would have parity that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

Or, it could head down a familiar road once more. Pushing the league into an area where one team possesses three of the worlds best players. Like the Golden State Warriors turned up to eleven.

Kawhi Leonard signing with the Lakers would all but assure that the death of the super team is far, far away. League-wide parity would be nothing more than a fleeting proposition, mentioned as a “what if” moment 10 years down the line.

If the Lakers manage to acquire Leonard, they would dominate the league to no end. An All-World trio of Leonard, James, and Davis would wreak havoc across the NBA until LeBron’s eventual retirement. Even after then, a combination of Davis and Leonard would be the best in the league. Maybe even Kyle Kuzma could turn into an All-Star in the progress.

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Either way, that core would see the Lakers jump to the front of the line, build a wall around the line, and declare instant victory. The teams around them would still be highly competitive, make no mistake, but it would be a purple and gold-tinted NBA.

It is startling to believe that we’re teetering on the edge of two completely different futures in the NBA, all thanks to one man. But here we are.