How the Toronto Raptors Can Keep Kawhi in Toronto
In the aftermath of a grand celebration heard all around the world, the Toronto Raptors faithful now turn their sights to free agency.
Champions never sleep, they just become hungrier to win more and the city of Toronto wants to host another parade next year. If the hope is to repeat as champions, the Raptors understand what task must be completed this Summer first – re-signing the Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Suddenly, with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all but ruled out for the entirety of next season due to catastrophic injuries, Leonard becomes the unquestionable big fish in what remains a loaded free agent pool. It is a class that also includes the likes of All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Nikola Vucevic, and D’Angelo Russell.
"Kawhi Leonard's focus [is] on Los Angeles, but it's the Clippers not the Lakers."
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 18, 2019
There is an ideology that I have held for quite some time regarding free agents across all sports.
By free agents, I mean the players who can choose their own destiny, not the ones who wait for the dominoes to fall in their place. Leonard is one of those players because realistically, there are 30 NBA teams desperately attempting to secure a meeting with him in free agency, hopeful to throw a contract his way.
The next part of my ideology is this. A superstar entering free agency is evaluating three important factors when eyeing a certain team: (a) will he be able to compete with the team long-term? (b) is the city a good location for his family, friends, and business ventures? and (c) does this team have a strong front office he can believe in throughout the duration of his next contract?
Ka’Wine & Dine and free penthouses are cool and all, but ultimately, it will not push the needle for a guy like Leonard.
For the Toronto Raptors, there is no doubt that re-signing The Klaw will be key, moreover, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster will not be entering their meetings with Leonard and his representatives empty-handed. Their argument to persuading Leonard to stay will include five integral guarantees – promises that can assure Raptors fans of a clear possibility of keeping The King of the North in Canada.
5. New Balance Hit Gold
Leonard is the biggest name on the New Balance roster and New Balance has killed it this entire season with the way they literally printed money for Leonard.
Players make money off the court, and New Balance is a key sponsor for Leonard. From the Fun Guy shirts, to the clever billboards that even reached Oakland, to Kawhi’s New Balance Canada sponsored thank you message to the fans on parade day, Leonard has lost little sleep over his business ventures while playing in Toronto.
4. Safety First
Led by Alex McKechnie, the Raptors boast one of the more advanced and impressive medical staffs in the entire league.
I am not saying that there aren’t other incredible staffs around the NBA, but a vital factor to consider is trust and Leonard has obviously built a trust with the team’s medical staff in Toronto. Together, the Raptors kept Leonard healthy and ready to perform at his best on the biggest stage of basketball in the postseason.
As Leonard is set to enter his 30’s with his next contract, trust is something that must be built and developed over time, and the Raptors already have that with their star forward.
3. A Front Office with a Vision
No one can question the mind of Masai Ujiri and his young protege, Bobby Webster.
He was just short of creating something special in Denver and now he has created a basketball culture in a country in Canada. Ujiri’s finger prints are all over this Raptors championship. Not many executives have the sheer courage to pull off some of the moves that Ujiri has attempted.
Masai Ujiri – "The narrative of not wanting to come to this city is gone. I think that's old and we should move past that. Believe in this city. Believe in yourselves." pic.twitter.com/ZaTzXxbLqx
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 24, 2018
The Raptors have one of the top analytics and scouting departments in the league and together with Ujiri, Webster, and a brilliant ownership being the MLSE, the Raptors are set up incredibly well for the future even if Leonard chooses to head south with his next contract.
A businesses is made successful from the vision and culture created from the very top. The Raptors have created a culture of winning over the past half-decade and have a front office that shares a vision to continue to remain hungry.
If the superstar finds a similar passion to win in a franchise, then he is clearly at the right spot. If he doesn’t have the same passion as the organization, then it is best that he moves elsewhere anyways.
2. Money Talks
Let’s be honest, everyone cares about their bread.
Leonard opted to choose happiness over the super-max when he forced his way out of San Antonio. The two-time NBA champ will already be short of $30-million if he chooses to remain in Toronto. If he leaves Toronto, then he will miss out of an additional $50-million that he is able to secure by re-signing. At some point, you would have to think that money is important, even to a wealthy professional basketball player.
Leonard is able to receive a five-year maximum offer worth $190-million ($38-million AAV) from the Raptors. The other 29 NBA teams can only offer him four-years, $140-million ($35-million AAV).
It’s free agency and you’d think that Leonard is ready to secure the bag.
Leonard can choose to go to the Clippers, or he can choose to go to the Knicks. He can also prove that Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is in fact mortal by opting to sign with the Lakers. That being said, there is only one place where Kawhi has a shot as repeating as champion and that’s Toronto.
Look no further than the Golden State Warriors. It is special to repeat, it is even more special to attempt to build a dynasty. That is what Leonard has the opportunity of doing – to build a legacy for himself that will never be forgotten by an entire country of Raptor fans.
If there is anything that we know, it’s that Leonard wants to win more than anything else. The Toronto Raptors provide him with that opportunity and they’re the only team he can re-sign with that will offer him a chance at repeating with one team.
Winning a championship trophy with one team is an incredible accomplishment. Repeating and beginning to create a dynasty is what will cement his legacy as one of the game’s greatest two-way players.