When Kawhi Leonard opted to bolt from the Toronto Raptors last summer, the general belief was that he did so in order to chase another title with the Los Angeles Clippers. That’s now out of the window following LA’s heart-wrenching series defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
As it turns out, Leonard actually told Toronto that he firmly believed they were not capable of winning another championship this season:
There were obviously other reasons why he chose the Clippers, including and especially his desire to go home, but one of the things Kawhi told the Raptors when he met with them in Toronto last summer, according to a source, was that he didn’t think they were good enough to repeat
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) September 16, 2020
What Kawhi Leonard did not realize then is that neither did the Clippers.
As for the Raptors, the defending champs upset the odds yet again this term, securing the second seed in the East sans Leonard. They made quick work of a short-handed Brooklyn Nets side in the first round, performing a very impressive clean sweep. They showed their mettle yet again in the second round, forcing a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics after falling 2-0 down in the series.
The Raptors pushed the Celtics to the very end, and they came extremely close to defeating Boston to set up a second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. They did all this without the reigning Finals MVP, so we can only imagine how the Raptors would have fared in a wide-open East if Leonard opted to stay in Toronto. There’s no denying that the East is the weaker conference, and Leonard would have arguably had an easier path to the Finals had he remained with the Raptors.
That’s all water under the bridge now, but we’re guessing that not too many Raptor fans are feeling bad about how Kawhi and the Clippers suffered a monumental collapse against an underdog Nuggets side.