We made it.
The NBA Finals are here, and we couldn’t be more excited. There are a lot of great storylines coming into these Finals, here are the three biggest ones.
Toronto’s First Finals Appearance
The most significant headline is the Toronto Raptors making it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. With LeBron James leaving the conference, swapping DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, and the emergence of Pascal Siakam, the stars have aligned for these Raptors. Being notorious playoff choke artists the past few years, this has to be a big sigh of relief for fans and the organization.
Trading franchise centerpiece Demar DeRozan for a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard was initially met with skepticism, but it was very clearly worth it. Trading Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright for veteran big man Marc Gasol was the sign that the Raptors were all in on this season, and it has paid off.
The Warriors Trying to Complete the 3-Peat
It feels as though the Warriors have won the championship for five straight years, but thanks to the historic performance and comeback from LeBron James and company, we did have a small break from the Warriors. Then they acquired Kevin Durant and most recently Demarcus Cousins. They have looked unbeatable in a seven-game series since acquiring Durant, but his injured calf muscle has the Raptors eyeing an opportunity. Sure, the Warriors are 31-1 without Durant and are still a formidable team, but the opportunity for Kawhi Leonard not having to worry about guarding Kevin Durant and being able to guard Klay Thompson or Steph Curry has Raptors fans excited.
The last team to complete a 3-peat was the Kobe and Shaq led Lakers in the early 2000s. The last team to come close? The Big three Miami Heat, who was stopped by none other than Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs. Will history repeat itself and will Kawhi prevent another juggernaut from three-peating?
The Impact on Both Teams Pending Free Agents
Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are both free agents after these Finals are over, and will easily be the biggest names to hit the market. Kawhi has been linked to both LA teams since he was still a Spur, and Durant is being linked to the Knicks, Nets, Clippers and basically anyone else who has the cap room. The way the Finals play out could have a significant impact on those players decision this offseason.
Kawhi Leonard seems to have enjoyed his time in Toronto and it is obviously working out with them making it to the Finals. Would he really leave for Los Angeles? That has been the narrative for the last two seasons, and many people still think that will be the case. If the Raptors end up winning a championship, it might actually make it easier for him to leave. He can head to sunny California guilt free if he brings the Raptors franchise their first championship. If not, and the Raptors fall short, it is very easy to see him wanting to stay and compete for another title.
We aren’t even sure if Kevin Durant will play in these finals, and if he doesn’t and the Warriors win without him, he is as good as gone. Even if he comes back and plays, the general consensus is that he will be leaving in free agency. The combination of Warriors future cap problems deciding which starters to keep, and the Warriors still having success without him (31-1 when he doesn’t play) will drive him out. Durant is very active on social media and has definitely heard people say he needs to leave and lead another team to save his legacy. We all know Durant takes these things to heart, and if a bet had to be made the safe one would be on Durant not being a Warrior next season.
However these storylines play out, this is sure to be an exciting NBA Finals and a bit refreshing for NBA fans to have an Eastern Conference team in the Finals not led by LeBron James.
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