The Toronto Raptors win their First NBA Championship
The Toronto Raptors completed their mission to defeat the Golden State Warriors with a 114-110 final score in a 4-2 series win.
Kawhi Leonard was awarded Finals MVP after averaging 28.5 points on 43% shooting from the field. Leonard now adds to his collection of trophies which includes 2 NBA Championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, and 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards. Additionally, Leonard has stopped 2 dynasties from three-peating (2012-13, 2013-14 Miami Heat and now 2016-17, 2017-18 Golden State Warriors). Jokingly, he also stopped the San Antonio Spurs dynasty upon requesting a trade due to strong feelings about the Spurs mishandling his injury.
Leonard, after being with San Antonio his entire career, was moved to the Toronto Raptors last offseason along with Spurs teammate Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poetl, and draft picks. Many Raptors fans hated this move at first because DeMar DeRozan had been loyal to the Raptors organization. DeRozan (link to source) even opted of interviews with teams when his contract was coming to an end because he wanted to remain in Toronto. Raptors GM, Masai Ujiri took what would be a huge risk, as Leonard had already voiced a desire to go home and play for the city of Los Angeles (whether it be the Clippers or Lakers) making him a one-year rental to just about any other team that got him. This risk paid off in the end. Ujiri has brought the Raptors its first ever NBA Championship, and the Washington Wizards are knocking on his door willing to offer him $10 million dollars to become president of their basketball operations.
While many fans and pundits are reliving the final minutes of the game and arguing for or against notions of an epic GSW collapse, the real story of the hour is Ujiri’s strategy. A strategy that will now serve as blueprint to other teams trying to win championships too: trade for a player in their contract year even if they'll be there for that one year and aim dead upon winning that championship while you have that player. This is why teams like the Trailblazers, Nuggets, Bucks, etc. will go after Anthony Davis who is in similar position to Kawhi Leonard--Davis wants to leave the New Orleans Pelicans and laid out the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks as the teams he would sign long-term deals with.
To use urban philosopher and rap extraordinaire HOV (aka Jay-Z) parlance: some of these GMs out here planning for threepeats while folks like Ujiri “taking real chances.” So, the real story of the hour is risks and reward. To be fair, this type of move is a risk to basketball dynasty-building teams, as those teams will undoubtedly have to trade off some pieces of their roster who are probably a long-term fit. But for NBA teams whose GMs embrace a carpe diem ethos, the “all in” move is necessary to secure a championship and, thus, quench a 24-year thirst.