The Toronto Raptors shocked the entire league in the recent offseason when they traded their most loyal player, DeMar DeRozan, to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. Despite earning plenty of criticism, the Raptors expressed strong confidence that they made the right move. When healthy, Leonard is undeniably a better superstar than DeRozan on both ends of the floor.
When LeBron James headed to the West Coast and joined the Los Angeles Lakers, the Raptors became one of the favorite NBA teams to dominate the Eastern Conference in the 2018-19 NBA season. In his first regular season game with the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard had an impressive performance, posting 24 points and 12 rebounds on 40.9 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. However, Leonard downplays their recent win and said that the Raptors are still far from reaching the level of the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
“We have a long road before we ever think about matching up with the champions like Golden State,” Leonard said, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “We’re not Finals competitors right now.”
Kawhi Leonard definitely knows how strong the Warriors are as a team after facing them in the Western Conference in the past years. After winning back-to-back NBA championships, the Warriors didn’t only retain their core of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, but they also managed to upgrade their roster with the acquisition of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in the recent free agency.
Raptors superstar point guard Kyle Lowry shared the same sentiment as Leonard and said that the Raptors first need to find their identity. Having new faces on their roster, Lowry believes that the Raptors should continue building good chemistry to have a strong chance of contending for the NBA title in the 2018-19 NBA season.
“We don’t know what this team is,” Lowry said. “We’re all still trying to figure each other out.”
Jayson Tatum looking forward to first matchup against Kawhi Leonard https://t.co/ZAvp3pZuyT— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) October 19, 2018
Of course, before talking about the NBA Finals and beating the Warriors in a best-of-seven series, the Raptors first need to win the Eastern Conference. As of now, the Boston Celtics have emerged as the top team who is expected to give the Raptors a huge headache in the East. After spending most of the 2017-18 NBA season dealing with injuries, Kawhi Leonard admitted that he doesn’t have much knowledge about the Celtics, but Kyle Lowry is very optimistic about their potential matchup against Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy.
“I think we’ll be fine against Boston,” Lowry said. “Every day is different, some days we’ll be good against them. It’s hard to define anything for us right now.”