Raptors Notes: Kawhi, Wright, Rotation

While there’s a long way to go until next July’s free agent period, the early returns on the Raptors‘ risky acquisition of Kawhi Leonard are encouraging, writes Josh Lewenberg at TSN.ca. While Leonard has looked a little rusty in the preseason, last season’s quad injury hasn’t been an issue at all, and Danny Green said this week that his longtime teammate has been “more vocal than he’s ever been” both on and off the court.

“It looks like he feels comfortable. It looks like he feels at home,” Green said of Leonard. “He’s talking to guys, he’s leading by example, in the huddles he’s chiming in, saying what he feels, saying his opinion. Before he didn’t really show or tell his opinion much.”

As Green pointed out, Leonard may feel more comfortable taking on a leadership role in Toronto than he did in San Antonio, where he was surrounded by veterans like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan, as well as a highly accomplished coach like Gregg Popovich. Whether he feels comfortable enough in Toronto to stick around for more than a year remains to be seen.

Here are a few more Raptors-related items:

  • As Delon Wright enters a contract year, Eric Koreen of The Athletic explores the ways in which the Raptors would like to see his game develop, including an increased willingness to shoot the ball from beyond the arc.
  • Wright could avoid restricted free agency in 2019 by reaching an agreement with the Raptors on a contract extension before next Monday’s deadline. Blake Murphy of The Athletic explores what such a deal might look like. In Murphy’s opinion, Toronto would likely jump at a contract in the neighborhood of $8MM per year, but Wright’s side could be justified in seeking something like $12MM annually. The club’s Fred VanVleet ($9MM per year) and Norman Powell ($10.5MM) deals figure to be points of comparison in negotiations with Wright.
  • After the 2017/18 regular season success of the Raptors’ Bench Mob didn’t necessarily translate to the playoffs, new head coach Nick Nurse and his staff are “aiming for a whole new kind of depth” in 2018/19, says Scott Stinson of The National Post. Stinson expects Nurse to explore more piece-by-piece mixing and matching in his lineup, whereas last year’s team often employed two distinct five-man units.
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6 thoughts on “Raptors Notes: Kawhi, Wright, Rotation

  1. Nebrasketball

    I think the Raptors are a super interesting team this year… new-ish coach, new star, but most of the same roster that they’ve had for a number of years.

    Cohesion and the growth of young players mixed with a better high-end player (and Danny Green’s 3 & D!) make this the team to beat in the East.

    I’m very curious to see how much a gap the Celtics and Raptors have over the 3rd best team in the east, and I’m curious as to how close both of those teams will be to each other.

    Currently, I suspect the Raptors to be better than many have predicted.

    But I could be way off.

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  2. Everybody knows how Toronto does this year will help Kawhi decide whether he stays or goes, if he hasn’t already. After what Toronto did with Dwayne Casey and DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi can’t trust this management group either.

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    • Nebrasketball

      Why? Because this management group wants to win?

      I’m a big DeRozan fan, but he was always treated exceptionally well by the franchise who gave him every opportunity to succeed and paid him handsomely whenever his contract was up. DeRozan worked his butt off, and the Raptors were better for his work ethic.

      Trading DeRozan to get a top 5 player is the cost of doing business. Moving on from Casey after another disappointing playoffs is the cost of getting swept.

      Masai and Webster do great work in Toronto. This is a top 5 front office/management team. Players love it there.

      What happened with DeRozan and Casey will have nearly zero negative impact on Kawhi’s decision – especially since it seems like Kawhi and coach Nurse are getting along so well.

      For Kawhi, it will come down to choosing where he wants to play. To leave Toronto, he’ll have to leave a ton of money on the table. Maybe he does that to get closer to home and team up with LeBron. But this is a very, very good Toronto team that will win more often than not. And Toronto can pay him the most $$$. If the team has success, then I suspect Kawhi’s decision will be easy – stay and take the largest paycheck.

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      • LordBanana

        To be fair, everything you said in your last paragraph also applied to San Antonio and we saw what happened. No one knows what he wants

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        • Nebrasketball

          Very fair point.

          Seems like the falling out in San Antonio had to do with both team staff and teammates (Tony Parker’s comments about Kawhi were more than inflammatory, and the team didn’t really come out and contradict Parker’s statements).

          I think most decisions come down to weighing a large variety of factors, and for Kawhi staying with the Spurs had enough negatives to have him ignore the potential massive payday (which we’re only assuming the Spurs would have offered).

          Plus, while San Antonio is a hip little city, the differences between it and LA are huge. The differences between Toronto and LA favor LA just in the weather. Everything else comes up Toronto, which is a world class city.

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  3. x%sure

    The two-squad system is always going to be better for the reg. season slog that requires stamina; its players did not have impact vs CLE individually in the playoffs.

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