Raptors championship sets new precedents for NBA landscape

The Toronto Raptors have capped off a remarkable playoff run by capturing the franchise’s first NBA championship in game six of the Finals last Thursday night. But the fallout of this Finals affects much more than just the Raptors and the Warriors. This series has affected both the free agent offseason and how executives will build their franchises from this point on. 

For starters, this championship team has shattered the mold. Before this year, general managers and presidents aimed to design their teams around two or three superstars at minimum. But the Raptors won with one star. They built around Kawhi Leonard with a multitude of role players, none of which came even close to a star with maybe the exception of five-time all-star Kyle Lowry.

Toronto proved that teams can build around one star, as long as they had depth around them. That was the biggest difference between Toronto and Golden State in these Finals. Toronto kept coming at the Warriors in waves, something the Cavaliers weren’t able to do the last four years. Unheralded reserves like Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka continued to perform throughout the six-game stretch, and the injury-riddled Warriors couldn’t match it.

This series also dramatically affected the free agent landscape. Golden State may as well have moved their locker room to the hospital, as they suffered injuries to DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant throughout a grueling playoff run, The injuries to Thompson and Durant, however, are the most severe.

KD’s torn Achilles and Thompson’s torn ACL will sideline them for almost all of the 2019-20 season, and for the entire season in KD’s case. WIthout them, the Warriors are a shell of themselves, but it also affects other teams.

The New York Knicks were counting on KD to pair with Kyrie Irving to make them instant contenders, but those plans have now gone up in smoke. The Warriors no longer have their superteam and don’t even have their Finals team from 2015. Perhaps most importantly, Kawhi Leonard still might leave the Raptors in the offseason, despite bringing a title north of the border.

Needless to say, the 2019 NBA Finals might be looked back on as a turning point for the NBA. Teams might begin to be built to favor depth opposed to star power, and a dynamite 2019 free agent class has suddenly gotten a lot weaker. Now comes the fun part: the offseason, full of Woj bombs and intrigue as the Association suddenly finds itself with the most parity it has had in years.

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