The King of the North is relinquishing his throne and heading west.
With the newly acquired Paul George by his side, Leonard has his eyes set on another crown, the one LeBron James currently wears with the LA Lakers.
@UniWatch @PhilHecken LeBron James is repping LA tonight at the #NBASummerLeague with the purple/gold Dodgers hat. The hat also has the “chevy” Kings logo along with the Larry O’Brien trophy, LeBronLand, palm trees and a car pic.twitter.com/8oOu2CPf7U
— Jakob Fox (@JakobLFox) July 6, 2019
Kawhi will see a familiar face at Staples Center, as longtime teammate Danny Green signed a two-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers, who share their home court with the Clippers.
With Leonard gone, the Raptors’ plans going forward have drastically changed. Instead of focusing on repeating as NBA champions, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have to figure out how they want to steer the franchise going forward.
The Raptors have some good young players in the fold, but they’ve also got some notable veterans getting up in age on expiring contracts.
With that being said, here is where the Raptors stand in the post-Kawhi era.
As the Raptors waited for Leonard’s decision, the rest of the Eastern Conference moved past them and loaded up on talent:
While they’re no longer considered the frontrunners to win the East, the Raptors will still be in the playoff hunt since the bottom half of the conference is questionable at best.
The good news for the Raptors heading into the 2019-20 season is that aside from the departures of Leonard and Green, the rest of the roster is still intact.
The Raptors starting lineup will most likely be Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol. If Nick Nurse needs a bigger lineup you could see Serge Ibaka in for VanVleet.
Their bench still has Ibaka, Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Miller, and Chris Boucher.
Updated Raptors depth:
Lowry, VanVleet, Loyd (2-way).
Powell, McCaw, Matt Thomas, Terence Davis.
Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Malcolm Miller (partial guarantee), Konate (Ex. 10).
Siakam, Hollis-Jefferson, Dewan Hernandez (unsigned 2nd-rounder).
Gasol, Ibaka, Boucher (partial).
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) July 8, 2019
They will be joined by free agent signings Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas, and Terence Davis.
Johnson is a defensive forward and former top-10 draft pick, while Thomas is a three-point specialist who spent the past two seasons in Europe with Obradoiro CAB and Valencia. Davis is a undrafted guard out of Ole Miss.
What going to be interesting to watch from the Raptors’ front office is how they choose to manage salary cap space.
Entering next season the Raptors will dip into the luxury tax since they are over the salary cap according to Spotrac, but with a few moves that could change drastically.
Aside from Powell and Anunoby, there are no other Raptors currently under contract after next season. It’s quite possible to see Ujiri and Webster trade older players like Ibaka, Gasol, and even Lowry for assets, while building around a young core of Siakam, Anunoby, and VanVleet.
While the 2020 free agency class isn’t loaded on star power, the 2021 class is going to rival this year’s free agency frenzy with players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. McCollum, Jrue Holiday, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo expected to hit the open market.
After running the Raptors since 2013, Ujiri finds himself in a position to finally put together a roster completely from scratch.