New Season, New Year: Big Things Lie Ahead for the Toronto Raptors

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 23: Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 23: Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Kawhi Leonard (or Someone Else)

It goes without saying that plenty of the shine of the much-ballyhooed 2021 free-agent class has faded with Antetonoumpo, LeBron James, Rudy Gobert, and others have been extended. But if the Toronto Raptors haven’t occupied their forthcoming cap space by trade before then, they could still have targets in a class that offers decent remaining options. A run at a Victor Oladipo or Blake Griffin could provide further support to the present core, but there’s only one true franchise-altering option.

And in all seriousness, why not Kawhi Leonard? Yes, he left as a free agent after delivering a championship in Toronto and he may well have made that decision long before hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. Still, there’s simply no way the Klaw came away from his one-year experience with anything but positive feelings towards the organization.

If things go south again in LA, the motivation for a reunion on both sides would be clear. Toronto would obviously love to run it back with most of the key players from the 2019 championship. Leonard could value playing near home too highly or look to play elsewhere (Miami?), or he could consider his age (he’ll turn 30 next summer) and recognize that a familiar system with a complimentary, skilled supporting group offers the greatest immediate chance to win.

In all likelihood, neither Harden nor Leonard will be sporting a Raptors uni in a year’s time (the jury’s still out on where Ujiri will be, although I see a short-term extension in his future). There will be other names bandied about, whether that be Oladipo, Griffin, or a trade push for a Bradley Beal. And, of course, there’s also the matter of what to do about Kyle Lowry.

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Whatever path the Toronto Raptors choose, team management certainly isn’t enjoying this slow fade from relevance back into the middle of the pack. And as we’ve seen before, the organization’s executives, headed by Ujiri and Webster, are at their best when they know the club needs a shot in the arm.