On Thursday night the Toronto Raptors and Kawhi Leonard capped one of the more remarkable seasons in NBA history, staving off the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Oracle Arena to earn their first championship in franchise history.
The immediate implications of Toronto’s achievement are obvious. It’s funny how winning an NBA title can cause previous uncertainties to crystallise in to cold-hard facts.
So, fresh off the presses, on the back of one of the most dramatic nights in NBA history, here are our top 10 inarguable propositions going in to the 2019 offseason:
1. With his Game 7 heroics last series and really his metronomic scoring throughout the last two months, Kawhi Leonard will now go down in NBA lore as indisputably one of the most clutch playoff performers of all time.
In terms of pure cold-hearted clutchness, he’s now in the same echelon as guys like MJ, Kobe, LeBron and Bird.
2. Without Kevin Durant, the seemingly-unbeatable Warriors are just that; beatable.
Their core trio of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Steph Curry are the equal of any in the league, but there’s a concerning lack of quality in the rest of the roster. Bob Myers must find a way to add pieces to the bench.
3. After the dizzying array of formations and strategies we saw from the Raptors on both ends of the floor against one of the best-coached offensive units ever to take the hardwood, it’s a fair assumption that Nick Nurse will never be out of a head coaching job in this league ever again.
He put together one of the great coaching performances we’ve ever seen. The box-and-1 was creativity at its finest.
4. The Eastern Conference is back.
In a big way. That this Raptors team – lauded for its all-round strength throughout these Finals – was taken to 7 games by Philadelphia in the second round (and could easily have lost), speaks volumes to the spike in talent in the East.
5. Kyle Lowry’s first-half outburst in Game 6 buries for good the (largely mistaken) narrative that he can’t perform in big games.
He will also never buy a drink in Canada as long as he lives.
6. Stephen Curry is undoubtedly in the top 5 players in the league, but his jump-shooting and creativity cannot carry a team in the manner of, say, 2015 LeBron James.
The physical load is just too heavy for him, not to mention the mental.
7. Pascal Siakam, despite some hiccups along the way (*ahem* Game 2), (and assuming the Raptors don’t act swiftly to extend him at the max in this offseason) has ensured he will receive a variety of monumental offers in restricted free agency at the end of next season.
Whether it’s in Canada or not, the 25-year-old from Cameroon is about to make a bunch of money. The fact he was on just $1,544,951 for this season is, arguably, the major reason why Toronto are NBA champions.
8. Playoff-Draymond is an entirely different beast to Regular-Season Draymond.
In a marvellous way. We, like many others, had fallen out of love with Draymond after some of his antics this season. He just submitted a 2 month audition tape for the role of “Most Fun Player to Watch on Both Ends in All of Basketball”.
9. Marc Gasol at the age of 34, with a $25 million player option for next season and finally a championship under his belt, can now go gently in to that good night.
He will be remembered fondly as one of the most skilful, graceful big men we’ve ever seen in the NBA.
10. One superstar will always be better than a star and some role-players.
With the offload of Demar Derozan to San Antonoi, GM Masai Ujiri may have irrevocably changed the way that NBA teams trade players going forward. Put away your ESPN trade calculators; they are officially useless.
Stay tuned though, because the real fun in the NBA is what we don’t yet know for certain.
Make no mistake, this offseason is going to be one of the most unpredictable in sports history.
Written and produced for Sportstips.com by Eddie Dadds