After a lot of talk about not wanting to play in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard not only showed up for the challenge, he even brought the Canadian team a title. Although not a total outsider in the NBA, no one really gave the Raptors (or Kawhi) a chance to even appear in the Finals. In reality, no one saw Toronto lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy and trumping the Kevin Durant-less Warriors in only 6 games.
Sports betting is very popular in Canada, with many Canadians betting on each game the Raptors play. Most sports betting Canada operators favored the Warriors and gave slim chances to the Raptors. It’s fair to say that everyone that placed a bet on Kawhi and the Toronto Raptors to win the title are counting their money now.
There was a lot of turmoil last summer in Toronto. General Manager Masai Ujiri pulled the trigger on a controversial trade, swapping fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan for former NBA champion Kawhi Leonard. With a year plagued by injuries and talk about disrespecting the Spurs, there wasn’t much hope for Raptors fans.
That all changed as soon as Kawhi played his first game. He led the Raptors to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference, topping all their rivals. Then he single-handedly beat the 76ers in dramatic fashion in the East Semifinals before dominating Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. In the end, he blew the Warriors off the water with a dominating Finals MVP performance. You have to give a guy some credit – he’s in a league of his own.
Another Summer of Change?
The Raptors took Kawhi with only a year left on his contract. The team was fully aware that Leonard may opt out of the deal and push for a Lakers move. However, after a year in Toronto, many experts and bookies predict that Kawhi will stay in Canada. There are several reasons why.
First, it’s all about the money. Money talks in the NBA and Kawhi is still young enough to earn a few max deals. The Raptors is the only team that can offer him a 5-year, $190 million deal which translates to $38 million per year. The other teams can offer him a max of 4-year, $140 million, which is quite lower. If he goes for the money, Kawhi Leonard’s only logical option would be Toronto.
The “Kawhi Watch” has taken over the web since the newly minted MVP decided to opt out of his deal. It has been a nightmare for Raptors fans, with speculation mounting that the Clippers are a possible suitor. Although the Lakers were Kawhi’s reported destination even before he came to Toronto, it’s now being reported that the young star would prefer the Clippers.
Other teams have joined the race for Kawhi as well. The Celtics, Knicks, and Nets are all reportedly interesting in Leonard. However, Raptors fans have been given a glimmer of hope by bookies. At the moment, the Toronto Raptors (-225) are the favorites to re-sign the Finals MVP. The Clippers (+175) are second on the list, while other teams fare worse (Lakers + 800, Knicks +1400, Nets + 1600).
In more good news for Raptors fans, Kawhi Leonard reportedly fell in love with the city during the season, which could be a deciding factor for his decision. This, along with the fact that he’ll get the best possible deal from his current team may be more than enough for Kawhi to re-sign with the Raptors.
Many experts are adamant that this is his best course of action and we have to agree. It’s the best team for him. The Raptors didn’t win the title just because of Kawhi. Smart moves at the deadline and the addition of a few veterans beside the young star are what made them such a great team. Let’s not forget about Nick Nurse, a coach who led the team to the Larry O’Brien trophy after a turbulent offseason. If you ask us, Kawhi should stay in Toronto and lead his own team. Which definitely won’t happen if he takes his talents to the Staples Center.
Patrick Supernaw is the lead editor for Great Lakes Ledger. Patrick has written for many publications including The Huffington Post and Vanity Fair. Patrick is based in Ottawa and covers issues affecting his city. In addition to his severe hockey addiction, Pat also enjoys kayaking and can often be found paddling the Rideau Canal. Contact Pat here