2020 NBA Finals Championship Predictions: Can Toronto Repeat?
The Toronto Raptors have won the NBA title, yet again proving the undeniable superiority of Canada. You guys might as well quit fighting it. We're nice up here, so we won't rub it in. Every year as soon the NBA Championship is awarded, we immediately ask ourselves the same question - can they do it again? The short answer in the case of the Raptors is that we have absolutely no way of knowing, and anyone who says they do is lying - to you or to themselves.
Related: NBA Championship Odds for 2020
But we can at least look at the possibilities. BetOnline has listed them as the third option to win the title at +800, which makes them the second choice in the East behind Milwaukee at +450. That's a fairly optimistic price. And if everything goes right for them this offseason, then that could be a price with some value. But man, is that ever a big if. Here are the three biggest questions that stand between us and really being able to answer our original question:
What does Kawhi do?
It doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is really the only question that matters. Kawhi Leonard willed this title into existence. He was the best player in the playoffs by a wide margin, and he clearly inspired his teammates to raise their games as well. His aggressive load management in the regular season was laughable but obviously precisely what was needed.
But now he is about to be a free agent. And heading into the season it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to be one and done up north - likely heading to the Clippers. But he has taken to Toronto. He made a point after the game to note that he and Nick Nurse shared a vision. The city, while cold, is metropolitan, multicultural and laidback. And he is now the mayor of it for life. It's probably still more likely that he leaves than stays. However, while it would have been shocking for him to stick around eight months ago, it certainly wouldn't be now.
And here's the other thing - Toronto is a good place for him to be. There he owns the market instead of having to compete with LeBron James and all the craziness that is L.A.. And Pascal Siakam is more of a dangerous, proven piece than any that the Clippers have, and the Raptors have repeatedly shown their fearlessness when it comes to doing what needs to be done to improve the team. The rest of the core isn't young, so the window might not be big, but the more I talk about it the more I can almost convince myself to believe that a shorter-term deal here makes a lot of sense.
What does Gasol do?
Gasol had a spotty regular season after joining the Raptors, but he more than proved his worth in the postseason. He has a player option for next year, and at 34 he knows he doesn't have a ton of years left. If Kawhi returns, it is all but a lock that he will opt back in - opportunities like this, and paychecks like he will get from that option for that matter, don't grow on trees. But if Kawhi leaves, then the team will likely be at least regrouping, and maybe fully rebuilding. It seems unlikely that Gasol would want to stick around for that.
Can Pascal Siakam continue to progress?
When the Raptors took Siakam with the 27th pick in the 2016 Draft, they had no idea how much of a steal they were getting. Siakam exploded this year, showing that he can be a very impactful, star caliber two-way player in this league - a Leonard-lite at worst, and perhaps even a future Leonard. He's that impressive. But he still has a lot of work to do, as he showed when he no-showed Game 2 of the championship series.
But now the team has some serious challenges when it comes to what to do with him. He's eligible for an extension now, but they don't have to extend him until next year. He's on track for a max contract, but only if he can continue to progress like he has. They would very likely not want to extend him now if they don't have to - another year of proving himself would make the decision that much easier. But they don't want to frustrate him, either. Again, what Leonard does will have a big impact on this decision, too.
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