The Toronto Raptors are the defending champions. After ending the season at the second seed in the East and working their way to the Finals the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Raptors success has been, in big part, on the defensive side. In the offseason though, the Raptors lost their All-Star Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Many people expected that Leonard would leave, but after such a huge amount of fan support, the departure still stung.
Now that Leonard is gone where will the Raptors fall in the East?
Obviously, the biggest loss the Raptors faced was the departure of Kawhi Leonard. A monster on both ends of the floor Leonard was a huge part of the Raptors success. Many even were vouching for him being MVP based on his performance.
Last year Leonard contributed everything he could to this team. He could go down as the best “rental player” in the history of the league.
The other big loss that the Raptors are going to deal with is Danny Green. With Green headed to the Lakers, the Raptors are down a 3-point shooter. This past season Green shot 45% from beyond the arc. Green’s veteran experience will also be missed.
So after losing two important pieces of their championship run how did the Raptors do in free agency? Well…Not great.
Both of the bigger pick-ups the Raptors got are bench players. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, from the Nets, and Stanley Johnson, from the Pelicans, are heading north.
Neither of these players adds a lot of offense to an already defensive-minded team.
Hollis-Jefferson will play behind Pascal Siakam at the Power Forward position. Hollis-Jefferson has been in the league for several years and has the ability to develop into a solid backup for Siakam. The main issue will be to work on his shooting.
He has a career average of 9.9 points a game and should under no circumstances be shooting a three-ball, his three-point career percentage is 22.3%.
Now, these stats would be mostly acceptable if it were a different situation. But having Hollis-Jefferson as the replacement for Green just doesn’t do it. Taking away offense and experience for someone who might one day develop is risky.
Before going into Stanley Johnson it’s important to note that, aside from a different superstar, the Raptors could not bring in anyone to fill the hole Leonard is leaving.
So, that brings us to the other replacement. Stanley Johnson was drafted in the same 2015 class as Hollis-Jefferson, so he has been in the league for some years. Though, he has never played in the playoffs before.
Defensively Johnson is above average. He is a great defender and should definitely not be looked over in that area. Where the real trouble is, is his offensive game. In his career, Johnson averages 7.0 points per game on 37.4 percent shooting and 29.3% beyond the arc. Those numbers are pretty abysmal.
Again, both of these players are solid defensively. But, being brought to a defensive-minded team they may not develop their offense as much as would be necessary for the team to succeed.
The Raptors will finish fifth in the East. This team is still good. In fact, this team is still very good. Losing their superstars will hurt them, but as a team, their core is still strong. They may not go as far in the playoffs as their fans would hope, but the team is still built for success. The Raptors success has been on the defensive end. Adding in some defensive players and developing their offense may also pay off in the end.