For most teams, losing your best player is usually followed by a painstakingly slow rebuild, in which the team gives up their remaining core for young pieces, draft picks, and future investments.
We thought this trend would continue for the Raptors, who lost Kawhi to the Clippers just weeks after winning the NBA Finals. The Raps have different plans.
Instead of putting their guys on the trade market, the Raptors are going to play their cards this season and put into motion a plan that does not involve sending away their players.
(via Sean Deveney of Heavy.com)
“This is where they always wanted to be,” one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. “Masai was always going to rebuild things around Siakam and OG (Anunoby) and the other young guys eventually. He’s going to have a ton of cap space. But he’s got to be able to get free agents to go there and it’s still a tough sell, getting guys to go to Canada. So they’ve got the ring, if they can get to the playoffs again, he has something more to sell when that cap space comes available.”
The Raptors do not consider the loss of Kawhi Leonard to be a step backward, but rather the flipping of a page -- the turning of a chapter towards their inevitable future.
Siakam and OG were always the guys of the future, and the departure of Leonard only sped up the timeline in which they gained control.
So while the Raptors are not favored to repeat as NBA Champions, they aren't going to spend the next few years licking their wounds. The time is now, and they are prepared to make the best of their situation.