When the Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard this summer, they knew they were getting one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and so far this season, that has been the case.
After 32 games, Leonard and the Raptors(23-9) have the best record in basketball. The two-time All-Star has brought his defensive ways north of the border, including leading the team in steals.
Over the past three seasons, Toronto won 50 or more games, including a franchise-best 59 wins last year, but the regular season has not been the problem. The playoffs have been the issue, or should I say LeBron James has been the issue. Fortunately for Toronto, LeBron is out West with the Lakers.
The Raptors seem a little different with Leonard in the mix, so says former NBA player Chucky Brown.
“I had a debate with my friend, and he said, ‘Toronto does this every year. They do that same thing every year.’ So I was saying that this year is different,” Brown recently told the Go4it podcast with host Paul Gant. “They got Kawhi there. No disrespect to DeRozan because I love DeMar DeRozan, but DeMar DeRozan doesn’t defend like Kawhi. There’s just something about Kawhi. He brought a whole new defensive mentality. Toronto has some long, young players. Then, you have Serge Ibaka, who’s a veteran player, so I think they could be a formidable opponent defensively.”
Toronto does have a lot of athletes on this roster, and more importantly, they have a healthy Kawhi Leonard, which means they have a great shot of going to the NBA Finals. It’s still early, and Boston, Philly, and Milwaukee won’t be easy to beat come playoff time, but the Raptors look like the best team in the Eastern Conference, and one of the best teams in the NBA.