With Leonard now in the Western Conference as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raptors will enter the 2019-20 season with very little chance of repeating as NBA champions.
However, despite dim expectations, the Raptors still plan on contending without Leonard entering the upcoming season. According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Toronto has no plans on moving the expiring contracts of veteran players such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
As for veterans Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka – who are all on expiring deals – the Raptors have no intention of moving them, at least not before the season, according to sources. Like he did with previous Raptors teams, Ujiri will give this group an opportunity to sink or swim before choosing a path and deciding what comes next.
Lewenberg continued to elaborate that the Raptors will have over $90 million coming off their books heading into next year's offseason, which will basically give Toronto the opportunity to reset its roster and continue to be contenders moving forward.
Lowry enters the final year of his deal worth just north of $33 million, Gasol will be paid $26 million and Ibaka roughly $23.3 million. In other words, all three players could fetch the Raptors some sort of return at the trade deadline in 2020 -- definitely a better alternative than losing all three for absolutely nothing.
Although the Raptors still have a playoff-capable roster as they bring back their entire main core from last year's championship team -- minus Kawhi -- they have virtually no chance of repeating as champions.
In fact,three days before Leonard eventually signed with the Clippers, the Raptors had a 23.3 percent chance of winning the Eastern Conference and a 14.2 percent chance of repeating as NBA champions had Kawhi returned to Toronto.
However, immediately after Leonard decided to sign with the Clippers on July 6, those percentages dropped to a miniscule 4.6 percent to win the conference, and 1.2 percent chance to win the championship. Currently, SportsLine gives the Raptors worse Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, two teams they were clearly better than last season.than the likes of the
But while the Raptors may not be your favorites in the Eastern Conference by a long shot, team president Masai Ujiri remained as headstrong as ever during NBA Las Vegas Summer League. He stressed that the team will be fine even after Kawhi's decision to bolt the Raptors after just one season.
"Honestly, it's on to the next," Ujiri said. "This is the NBA and this is how it works. I always say there's no time to go out and cry. You can't hide under the table and cry. Honestly, I've lost no sleep. I'm not disappointed. It's on to what's next. I'm telling Raptors fans and everybody, don't lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We're going to be just fine. We're going to be all right."
While the Raptors plan on sticking it out with their veteran players on expiring deals -- all three of them served as starters on the title team -- that tune will quickly change if the team fizzles out early in the season without its Finals MVP.