The Boston Celtics are the measuring stick in the Eastern Conference. They are the best team in the East, and many of the roster moves that other contenders in the conference make probably will be done with the intent on matching up with Boston in a potential playoff series.
The Toronto Raptors are a contender in the East after earning the conference’s top seed in the 2018 NBA playoffs, but it became pretty clear they weren’t on the same level as the Celtics after getting swept in the second round by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fast forward a couple months and the Raptors have a new coach and a new-look roster after a blockbuster trade Wednesday in which Toronto reportedly agreed to acquire superstar forward Kawhi Leonard as part of a deal with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Leonard trade is a huge gamble for Toronto because the 2014 NBA Finals MVP is in the final year of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But for the Raptors to give themselves the best possible chance to beat the Celtics, it was a trade they probably needed to make.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski touched on this subject Wednesday during an appearance on “SportsCenter.”
“There’s no question this deal comes with great risk for Toronto,” Wojnarowski said. “In the end, they didn’t think they were good enough with the team they had to beat Boston, maybe even beat Philly. And they’re rolling the dice on a player who, when healthy, is a top three or four player in the league.”
Leonard’s contract status could make the window for Toronto to beat Boston just one season. If that’s the case, it needs to make more moves to improve the roster, because the Raptors, even with Leonard, still aren’t as good as the Celtics. And they’re probably not better than the Philadelphia 76ers, either.
Kyle Lowry is not a better No. 2 option than Ben Simmons or Gordon Hayward/Jayson Tatum.
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