2. Other teams should be emboldened to strike now
This Toronto Raptors team, and the 2019 NBA Finals in general, proved two things to aspiring contenders who are close to competing for championships: 1) The Golden State Warriors’ vice grip on the rest of the league has loosened, and 2) One-year rentals can definitely pay off, and potentially turn into more.
We’ll dive into that first point a bit more later, but suffice it to say that even if the Dubs somehow manage to re-sign Durant and Thompson and round out their roster, they probably won’t be back in time for another championship run. The West is wide open next season, and for the foreseeable future if KD and/or Klay move on in free agency.
This should change the thinking of several teams. The Houston Rockets are reportedly on the verge of a full-scale teardown, considering trades for Chris Paul and Clint Capela to upgrade the roster. They may want to rethink that strategy now. After all, was there any team in the 2019 NBA Playoffs that would’ve stopped the Rockets from reaching the Finals, other than their perpetual tormenter in Oakland? No offense to the Portland Trail Blazers, but it’s not likely.
The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers could survey the landscape and make moves. The Los Angeles Lakers will be as desperate as ever to trade for Anthony Davis and then lure a third superstar to Hollywood in free agency. The Utah Jazz will be on the hunt for a third cornerstone piece. The Los Angeles Clippers are going to be aggressive in free agency and on the trade market.
After five straight years of Golden State owning the West, there’s blood in the water.
And that’s without even looking to the East. Without the Warriors’ shadow looming over everything and the Raptors being the new top dogs, teams that just barely lost to them — namely, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers — should be emboldened to run it back and try again next year, especially with the knowledge that there’s no guarantee Kawhi re-signs this summer.
The Bucks and Sixers both had major questions with their pending free agents, but the Warriors’ demise and Toronto’s success story should be all the motivation they need to run it back and gun for a similar underdog path to the Finals.
The Nets, Celtics and Knicks were already going big this summer, either eyeing KD and Kyrie in free agency or probing an Anthony Davis trade (or both), but in Boston’s case, Kawhi leading the Raptors to a championship as a one-year rental might make Danny Ainge feel more comfortable with giving up assets to try and do the same thing with AD.
Whatever the case might be, current playoff teams, contenders and fringe teams with plenty of cap space should be emboldened to make big moves. The Warriors are weakened, and the Raptors found success on a similar path. A dynasty may have just toppled, and there’s no guarantee Toronto will even be the same next season. Now is the time to strike.