Would the Toronto Raptors have repeated if Kawhi Leonard returned?

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors have started the 2019-20 season on a good note. If the finals MVP was back, would the Raptors have repeated?

No matter the NBA circle you dive into, the Toronto Raptors aren’t being considered title contenders. Theoretically, they could’ve started 10-0 and still wouldn’t be in that conversation.

However, they’re getting much more respect now than they were before this season started. The Raptors have cracked the top-10 in ESPN, Bleacher Report and the Athletic’s NBA power rankings this week.

The biggest reason respect for the Raps has been so low, is because they lost finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers this offseason.

It’s a no brainer that the Raptors would be better with Kawhi on the team. The question is, by how much? They’d jump into the title contender’s category, but would they be able to find that same success for a second straight season?

To be honest, being as unbiased as possible, yeah, this team could have repeated. Frankly, the team would be the favourites at this point. That’s not a hot take (it’s not even a lukewarm take), seeing as Kawhi’s Clippers are widely considered the favourites to win the Larry O’B.

And, it’s not like it’s never happened before. Since the 2008-09 season, three teams have won the title in consecutive years.

However, unlike most of those teams, this Raptors team could have been better than in their winning season without a whole lot of change.

The biggest change would have been the developments Pascal Siakam has made. Having a one-two punch like Kawhi and Siakam on both ends of the floor would be something special.

They wouldn’t necessarily be the most glamorous duo in the league, but they’d be right near the top in most effective.

Even without Kawhi, the Raptors own a top-10 defensive rating. Imagine adding him to a rotation that already has Spicy P, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and OG Anunoby. Oh, wait… we did see how good that was. And, they won the chip.

Offensively speaking, Siakam wouldn’t have the same usage as he has to start the season, which would lower his raw numbers. However, having a second scoring option as good as he’s been would make things much easier for the team than last season, especially down the stretch.

Kawhi leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring and having someone to go to before that time comes, would likely improve those numbers. He’d have his legs under him at the end of games and defenses would have to focus on two players who can get a bucket rather than just him.

Even without Danny Green (although he probably would be back if Kawhi returned), the Raps would still have one of the best, and most versatile starting fives in the league.

As mentioned Siakam has improved, Lowry has this championship swagger – averaging 24 points and just under seven assists per game – and Gasol, VanVleet or OG would be perfect pieces to round it out.

Just like the Siakam and Kawhi duo, it wouldn’t be the flashiest. What it would be is one of the most effective.

With the talent they have, and the fact they’re in the thinner of the two conferences, Kawhi would be able to save himself as much as he wants for the postseason. As we can tell, the Raptors are going to be fine without Kawhi. He could have potentially sat out 20-plus games again, and the team would still be in a good spot.

Next. Is Pascal Siakam a top-5 player in the East?. dark

Because there’s no clear-cut favourite to win the title, why couldn’t it be the same Raptors team who won it last season? They would have been a squad with continuity, a winning pedigree and most importantly, one of the best players in the game paired with a great supporting cast.