The Toronto Raptors once again beat the odds.
When Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors at the alter after just one season, albeit one that brought the franchise their first championship since their foundation in 1995, it was reasonable to wonder if Nick Nurse and the Canadian juggernauts would be able to replicate their performance in an Eastern Conference.
Their performance in the NBA bubble, however, goes to show that Nurse’s squad is every bit as capable of contending for a title without Leonard as they were with him. While Vegas thought that the Raptors would struggle to remain in the top tier based on their 46.5 win over/under projection, the Raptors just picked up win No. 47 despite the truncated season.
The Toronto Raptors proved they can contend without Kawhi Leonard.
Analysts who predicted that the sky would fall down in Toronto without Kawhi overlooked the fact that the Raptors went 17-5 when Leonard. That is largely due to Nurse’s leadership, as he has created a system that takes advantage of Toronto’s solid shooting and depth at several key positions that could survive getting rid of a player of Kawhi’s caliber.
Pascal Siakam needed to make the leap from stud to superstar, and he has, upping his points per game average from 16.9 in 2018-19 to 23.5 in 2019-20. Kyle Lowry is still serving as a steady hand at point guard, while complimentary stars like Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, the latter of whom put on a dominant showing against the Los Angeles Lakers, have emerged as tertiary stars on a team with title potential.
Toronto might not have the star power they have had in past seasons, but the exceptional coaching of Nurse, emerging of Siakam, and veteran leadership of Lowry has the Raptors humming along. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks would be foolish to not see them as a threat.