The 2019 Raptors featured a strong and deep team lead by superstar Kawhi Leonard. They were successful all year and came out as NBA champions.
However, many people put an asterisk next to this championship due to injuries suffered by the Golden State Warriors. I disagree with the notion the asterisk is justified, and this is why:
The Toronto Raptors came into the year having just traded for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and others. It was amazing to watch Leonard adapt to a totally new system under a brand new head coach and totally new teammates.
Coach Nick Nurse had never been NBA tested before, only coaching in the G-League. The Raptors went on to be the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
During the playoffs, the Raptors continued to shine and easily went through the Orlando Magic in 5 games. The next series was possibly one of the greatest performances in a single series by Kawhi Leonard.
He exploded for 35 and 10 a night against the 76ers in a hard-fought 7 game series capped off with his now-iconic buzzer-beater. The Raptors then overcame a deficit down 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
These playoff series, especially against the 76ers and Bucks, proved that the Raptors had what it takes to be a championship team and also showed their ability to perform under pressure.
Going into the finals, the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors were still picked as the clear favorites to win the NBA championship. Once again, the Raptors impressed, winning 3 games on the road, including the series-clincher.
While yes, two of the Warriors stars were hurt, the Raptors were able to shut down Stephen Curry with innovative schemes like the box-and-one. The Raptors went on to win the championship in 6 games.
During the entire season and especially the playoffs, many unproven players stepped up to the plate. Players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell played big roles in the success of the Raptors, and Kyle Lowry was able to prove that he is not a “choker” in the playoffs, especially on defense.
This season, head coach Nick Nurse continued to show that last season was no fluke and that his style works in the modern NBA, even without Kawhi Leonard this season.
This is why I believe the Toronto Raptors should have no asterisk next to their championship.
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