The big news of the day was that Kawhi Leonard is finally being shipped out of San Antonio en route to Toronto. This move is set to shake up the Eastern Conference in a major way. But are the young and talented Boston Celtics any less likely now to see their way into an NBA Finals bout with the big, bad Warriors?
There’s no denying that Leonard is an all-NBA, all-world talent who can dominate on both ends of the court. Adding a wingman like that would bolster every roster in the league not already housing LeBron James. But let’s not forget that we haven’t seen Leonard play in practically two years.
When fully healthy, he’s among the best. But is there a person out there who knows the fullest extent of his injury? I’d be willing to bet there isn’t anybody other than Leonard himself and those he keeps close to him. It’s a tight-knit circle, that’s for sure. As far as we know, Leonard is no more ready to play this season than he was last season.
Grading Out The Raptors
The Raptors gained Leonard and Danny Green, who can best be described as an aging three-point specialist who can put in work on the defensive end as well. On the flip side, the Raptors lost DeMar DeRozan – a surefire point-scorer with pure offensive talent – and Jakob Poeltl – a young center who evolved into a crucial player in their lineup. Oh, let’s not forget that a protected 2019 first round pick was handed over to the Spurs as well.
While Leonard and Green will bring some value to this young and hungry Raptors team, Toronto will be hard-pressed to replace the night-in-and-night-out scoring presence that DeRozan brought to the table and the frontcourt presence to be reckoned with that Poeltl was becoming.
There’s a fair argument that the Raptors are just as good or even worse than they were a day ago. But they certainly did not get any better.
Grading Out The Celtics
Now, let’s talk some Celtics. This team is built to win right now. Led by veteran all-star caliber players in Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford, the C’s are primed to run away with the Eastern Conference. Young studs by name of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Daniel Theis are sure to add that extra push to get this team in the right direction.
The only legitimate threats to Boston in the east going into this season were the Sixers and maybe the Pacers. The “Process” has finally swung the Sixers way and they are positioned to sport a winning record through 82 games. The Pacers are regarded as a young, scrappy team that can go toe-to-toe with just about any team with hard-nosed, bullish effort.
But the Raptors weren’t even in the conversation until they (apparently) are now. To put it lightly, arguing that the Raptors could make a run at the Celtics this season is fundamentally flawed. We don’t know if Leonard is fully healthy. It’s a longshot that he will step into Toronto’s rotation and be able to drop 23 points per night over the course of the entire season like his predecessor.
The Raptors are no better today than they were yesterday. So tell me – why are they all of a sudden a threat to the Celtics now?
The answer is simple. They aren’t.