The Toronto Raptors were a team that took a gamble in the 2018 offseason. They traded for superstar forward Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard only had one-year left on his deal and preferred to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, Toronto struck a deal as they sent DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs.
Some questioned the move and if it would pan out for the Raptors. Especially with a rookie head coach at the time in Nick Nurse. The move worked out brilliantly for Toronto as it panned out to the franchise’s first ever NBA Championship.
Nurse made an appearance on The Pat Bev Podcast with Rone and talked about his experience coaching Leonard in that one season with the Raptors:
“I don’t think anybody knew how it was gonna work. I think he hadn’t played in like 12 or 14 months. So I don’t think anybody knew health-wise where he was going to be. We kinda went into it with a slow build. We were not gonna play him in back-to-backs and things like that. When he wasn’t playing early on, people were like, ‘What’s going on?’ But the team started playing so well that we just kinda played.”
The Raptors finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 58-24 record only behind the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Raptors beat the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Bucks in the playoffs. They played the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and beat them in six games.
Leonard was a free agent in the summer of 2019 and there was a lot of speculation on where he would go.
As the story goes, Leonard left the Raptors to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
While Raptors fans wished Leonard’s tenure was longer, at least the gamble for him resulted in a championship.
Serge Ibaka is heading overseas
One of the key pieces of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team was Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has struggled the past few seasons trying to find a home.
The 33-year-old is now going overseas as he’s signed a one-year deal with FC Bayern Munich in Germany to continue his basketball career.
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