On Tuesday, October 22, the NBA will begin its 74th season. As with any new year, it begins with new faces, old players in new places, and all kinds of predictions about what lies ahead, especially for the Toronto Raptors stomped, the team that snarled, and "klawed" their way to a first-ever NBA title. We. The. North.
The team has been training in Quebec City, and now, as the Raptors return for their 25th season, they will open their first home game by attaching a championship banner to the top of Scotiabank Arena, commemorating the inspiring run that set fans into a frenzy. But they will do so without their MVP — Kawhi Leonard, a.k.a. The Klaw — in the lineup. So what are the team's chances?
No Kawhi, but Kyle remains
When Kawhi made his decision to leave for the Los Angeles Clippers, it was sad, but not that shocking. Even before he was traded from San Antonio to Toronto in the summer of 2018 on the last year of his contract, he made it very clear that he really wanted to play in his home state of California. So he came to Toronto, played his heart out, made THE SHOT, and gave Canada a title.
But now while Kawhi tries to bring the Clippers their first-ever title, who do the Raptors return with? As it turns out, plenty.
The Raptors are left with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and the team's heart and soul, guard Kyle Lowry. But the really exciting thing about this year's Raptors? Young talent.
Spicy P, Steady Freddie, and...
Last year's winner of the NBA's Most Improved Player Award, forward Pascal "Spicy P" Siakam is now a legitimate star. "Steady Freddie" Van Vleet and Norman Powell both emerged as go-to players. And former MVP of the NBA G League (where young players not quite ready for the big time develop) Chris Boucher now has the chance to spend the season learning from Gasol and Ibaka. But maybe the most important player to the Raptors this season?
...and the year of OG?
That's OG Anunoby. While the rest of his teammates won the glory last season, the 22-year-old spent most of the year injured. And when he got healthy? Well, a superstar named Kawhi Leonard sort of made his skills unnecessary.
But with Kawhi gone, OG will be given time to grow. Which is amazing because the player that this defensive specialist reminds most people of? Kawhi Leonard! Now those are big shoes to fill but if he can take advantage of this opportunity, the Raptors will be a lot stronger without Kawhi than people are guessing.
Either way, the Raptors are the champs, coast-to-coast. To celebrate, watch the team try their hand at Canada's other official language as Serge Ibaka grills his buddies in French.
Le Nord C'est Nous!
Training Camp in Quebec City...
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 30, 2019