Kawhi Leonard did it. He took the Raptors to the NBA Finals for the first time and they won the NBA Championship for the very first time as well. Leonard, without exaggeration, is considered a legend for the city of Toronto and for Canadian basketball as a whole.
But what now?
Before the season began, many saw Leonard as just as a one-year rental. However, with a championship under his belt, and a supporting cast that stepped up, I believe that he will stay. Here are some reasons why:
While I do not think money is of the most importance to a player like Leonard, it is still important and no either team in the league can offer what the Raptors can offer. Leonard can roughly make $38M a year while other teams can afford within the mid 30’s range. As I said, it may not be the only thing Leonard is concerned with, but after his playoff run this year, he deserves to make the most he can get.
Kawhi Leonard did not play a lot during the regular 2018-2019 NBA season. It seemed that he only played every second game and many people questioned why. Leonard was displeased with the Spurs’ organization and how they handled his quad injury, but the Raptors knew better. With strong enough talent on the team already, Kawhi can continue to rest as needed throughout the regular season in order to play all out during the playoffs. Kawhi’s health is extremely important as he enters his late 20’s and still showing signs of that quad injury bothering him.
The Raptors won their first ever NBA Championship because of Kawhi Leonard. The entire country of Canada is electric because of Kawhi Leonard. Toronto is offering him free meals, drinks, and even a free penthouse! He is literally going to be considered a legend in Toronto and the rest of Canada and there is no other market he can go to that will show him this amount of love.
The Road to the Finals
The potential to win more championships on the Raptors is definitely there. Why? The Eastern Conference has opened up tremendously since LeBron left to and headed the Lakers. While the competition is still high in the conference, Kawhi has to be considered the best player in the East. If he stays with the Raptors he will continue to be considered the best player in the conference and have an easier road to the finals compared to playing in a much tougher Western Conference.
Max contract? Check. Staying healthy? Check. Best fans? Check. Potential to win more rings? Check. Staying in Toronto hits off all the checkmarks on Kawhi’s checklist, now the decision is up to him. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @thisisgillie for more NBA - related news and opinion pieces!
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