2018-19 Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard is set for his first, and possibly only, season as a Toronto Raptor.

Coach: Nick Nurse (entering his first season).

Last Season: 59-23, lost in second round of playoffs to Cleveland, 4-0.

Key Returnees: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, C.J. Miles, O.G. Anunoby, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam.

Key Additions: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Danny Green (San Antonio), Greg Monroe (Boston), Eric Moreland (Detroit).

Key Losses: DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio), Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio).

Outlook: This much is clear — these are not your father’s Toronto Raptors. Heck, they may not even be those of your brother. If nothing else, Masai Ujiri has some brass basketballs in his trophy case as he’s swung for the fences since the Raptors’ most-recent annual flameout against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs? Coach of the Year Dwane Casey? Later, dude. All-Star, Face-of-the-Franchise guard DeMar DeRozan? Hope you like Texas, pilgrim (apologies to John Wayne). That, NBA fans, is what we call a makeover. Casey was given the gate by Ujiri after leading Toronto to its best regular-season in franchise history, a team-record 59 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. All of which meant nothing to James, the East’s Great White Shark, whose Cavaliers sunk their teeth into Toronto and turned them into chum… again, sweeping them quicker than stuff through a goose, concluding with a 35-point Game 4 embarrassment. Now, though, two-time first-team All-NBA player Kawhi Leonard, acquired along with sage veteran swingman Danny Green in exchange for DeRozan and talented young big guy Jakob Poeltl, will attempt to restart his career and salvage his tattered reputation after playing only nine games in a bizarre, drama-filled 2017-18 season with the Spurs. This shapes up to be a case of the Raptors and Leonard — which could be a one-year arrangement with Leonard headed toward unrestricted free agency come July — needing each other. Both Toronto and Leonard are in reputation-rebuild mode. Whether either or both succeed or fail, it should be interesting to watch, starting opening night against the Cavaliers, who lost their Raptor-devouring teeth when James skipped town for a second time and headed to Hollywood.