“Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor” is now interchangeable with “Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals.”
It’s the battle of the Greens. E-40 vs. Drake. The Death Lineup vs. the Extinction Lineup (Siakam at Centre). NBA’s best offense vs. the best defense (I’ve said that for each of the last two series, ironically).
For this monumental series, we invited Daniel Hardee from SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind to preview the NBA Finals. That’s right, Raps fans, soak it in. An NBA Finals preview that involves the Raptors!
On the Latest Episode:
You’d figure a first-time NBA Finalist would be ripe for some deer-in-headlight moments and an easy opponent, especially for a Warriors team making it’s fifth consecutive Finals trip. However, this Raptors squad is different. Those deers have been disposed. The starting lineup includes a Finals MVP (Kawhi Leonard), an almost-Finals-MVP (Danny Green), a Defensive Player of the Year (Marc Gasol), a soon-to-be Most Improved Player (Pascal Siakam), and a 12-year veteran who doubles as the team’s engine (Kyle Lowry). Raptor fans will surely act like we’ve never been here, but don’t expect that from the players.
The road to the Finals was very different for both teams. While Toronto had to battle back from deficits in each playoff series, Golden State never trailed. Is Toronto’s resilience or Golden State’s dominance more impressive?
For two teams that don’t have a storied rivalry, there’s surprisingly a large number of players looking for redemption. Kawhi trying to finish what Zaza Pachulia took away from him. Patrick McCaw and Alfonso McKinnie playing their former teams. Steph Curry facing his father’s former team. Who has the most to “pay back”?
Kevin Durant’s injury status will dominate the off-court headlines. If he is able to play at anything close to 100 percent, this could be another one-sided Finals series for the Warriors. His injury typically requires one month of recovery, which means he would be returning for Game 3 or 4 at Oracle Arena. Would a two-game head start be enough to help Toronto pull off the upset?
How do you see the rosters matching up? Would Pascal’s speed and length be a good deterrent to Curry’s handles and quick trigger? Does Toronto leave Kawhi on Andre Iguodala, allowing him to help double and force turnovers? Or is Kawhi better suited to guard Draymond Green, limiting the league’s best screener from... well... screening?
X-Factors ranged from Danny to Draymond, and Looney to Boogie. It’s quite refreshing to analyze NBA Finals rosters when LeBron James is not involved. Both teams are filled with enough talent that the X-factor may still be an unexpected bench player.
What was once a pipe dream is now a reality. The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals. To reach the mountaintop, they’ll have to halt the Warriors dynasty. Blame it on recency bias, or blame it on Raptors bias, I think Toronto wins Game 7 — on Father’s Day — and brings the Larry O’Brien trophy north of the border. What do you think?
3:25 - All the way from Oakland
5:35 - What was it like for GS in 2015?
15:49 - Undertaker or Resurrector
23:40 - Looking for Revenge
34:30 - With or Without KD
40:00 - Pick Your Poison
42:15 - Matchups
47:34 - X-Factors
56:50 - Who lifts the O’Brien?