The decision of LeBron James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers have changed the NBA landscape. Now that he’s no longer a Cavalier, most people expect the Eastern Conference to have a new ruler in the 2018-19 NBA season. When James signed with the Lakers, three NBA teams emerge as the top favorites to fully dominate the East, including the Toronto Raptors.
After two consecutive seasons of being swept by LeBron James in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Raptors decided to make a huge change on their team. They fired Dwane Casey as head coach and replaced him with Nick Nurse. The Raptors also traded a package centered on DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. So far, the Raptors continue to prove that they made the right decision in the recent offseason.
They are currently on a three-game winning streak, sitting in the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 9-1 record. On Sunday night at Staples Center, the Raptors, who played without Kawhi Leonard, dismantled the Lakers by burying them early in the first quarter. In just one game of facing the Raptors, LeBron James, the man who appeared in the last eight NBA Finals, already knew the team that will rule the Eastern Conference this season.
“They are the best team in the Eastern Conference and they came out and hit us in the mouth,” James said, via The Ringer.
Serge Ibaka played as well as he ever has in a Toronto uniform, making his first 15 shots and finishing with a career-high 34 points as the Raptors laid waste to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in a 121-107 victory. https://t.co/uLzDQAXw1U— TorontoStar (@TorontoStar) November 5, 2018
As of now, the Raptors are becoming more cautious on Kawhi Leonard, knowing the fact that he just returned from a gruesome quad injury that forced to miss most of the 2017-18 NBA season. However, one source from the Raptors’ organization reportedly told The Ringer that Leonard is expected to be 100 percent healthy before the All-Star break. The source also added that the All-Star forward is “playing more free this year.”
If Kawhi Leonard remains healthy throughout the season and the Raptors continue to build good chemistry, it will not be a surprise if they become the new ruler of the Eastern Conference this season, just as LeBron James said. Meanwhile, the former king of the East will be needing to double his effort on both ends of the floor to give the Lakers a chance of challenging the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, for the Western Conference supremacy. After their recent loss to the Raptors, the Lakers are 4-6 and currently in the No. 12 spot in the Western Conference.