Despite winning the 2019 NBA championship title, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard still chose to leave the Toronto Raptors in free agency to play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Leonard’s free agency decision has undeniably changed the NBA landscape. With the core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol, the Raptors remain a legitimate playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, after losing the best player of their championship squad, it remains a big question mark if the Raptors have what it takes to bring home the second Larry O’Brien Trophy to Toronto in the 2019-20 NBA season. The departure of Leonard gave other powerhouse teams like the Philadelphia 76ers a better chance of challenging the Raptors for Eastern Conference supremacy. In an interview with Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, veteran forward James Ennis III revealed that Leonard’s decision to leave the Raptors for the Clippers is one of the major reasons why he decided to re-sign with the Sixers in the 2019 NBA free agency.
With the Sixers no longer needing to face a Kawhi Leonard-led team in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, James Ennis III is very confident that they will be the one representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals next season.
“Because it’s a good team, and a good chance of winning,” Ennis said, according to a Twitter post by Pompey. “The East is going to wide open. We had a good chance last year. Kawhi is gone. He went to the West. So we are going to walk to the Finals in the East.”
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It’s easy to understand why James Ennis III remains very optimistic about the Sixers’ chances of reaching the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 NBA season. The Sixers may have lost some of their core players – Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick – this summer, but they still managed to build a roster that can legitimately contend for the NBA championship title. Aside from re-signing Tobias Harris, the Sixers also added five-time NBA All-Star Al Horford in the 2019 NBA free agency.
Though they failed to bring Jimmy Butler back to the fold, the Sixers didn’t lose him in the 2019 NBA free agency without getting anything in return. In the four-team deal that sent Butler to the Miami Heat, the Sixers acquired Josh Richardson. Richardson will give the Sixers an immediate replacement for J.J. Redick as their starting shooting guard. Richardson, 25, fits well with the timeline of Sixers’ cornerstones Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.