After firing the most successful coach in Raptors history, Masai Ujiri, president of basketball operations, didn’t stop there trading one of the most beloved players in Toronto, DeMar DeRozan.
In addition to DeRozan, the Raptors sent Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for all-star forward Kawhi Leonard, and sharpshooting guard, Danny Green.
Despite DeRozan arguably being the greatest Raptor ever, he didn’t perform well in the playoffs. He led Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, which is an admirable accomplishment, but Raptors fans want more. They wanted reliability and they wanted someone they can call on when the game is tied with a minute left in regulation.
Reliable when you need him
Kawhi Leonard is that kind of player, and right from game one of the regular season until now he has been everything Raptors fans expected and more.
In the 2019 postseason, Leonard is having a historic run averaging 31.8 Ppg, 3.6 Apg, and 8.5 Rpg.
He has put the team on his back and has been the difference maker in the playoffs. Masai Ujiri took a big gamble trading away DeRozan but it was the right decision. Leonard has been able to do things on the court that DeRozan was unable to do in the playoffs. Such as lead, keep a cool even-keel demeanour, get others involved, and create open shots for himself.
and most importantly…
Leonard did the unthinkable on Sunday afternoon hitting the first ever buzzer-beating game-winning shot in a game seven.
With four seconds tied at 90, Leonard got the ball at the top of the three-point line and with two defenders closing in on him he drove to the right corner and released a high arching shot over the hands of Joel Embiid. Hitting the rim not once, not twice, not three, but four times before going down giving the Raptors the 92-90 win to book their ticket to Milwaukee.
It was an emotional moment for all Raptors fans as they are so used to everything going wrong in those types of moments. It was an iconic moment in Canadian sports history and the NBA and will be replayed for years to come.
The Raptors work isn’t over yet. The will face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Surprisingly, the Raptors head into the series as big underdogs.
The Raptors will need another legendary series from Leonard to win this series and move on to the NBA Finals.
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