Wob: No Matter What Happens with Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors Have Already Won


Photo credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard

May 26, 2019, 09:00 PM EDT
  • Kawhi Leonard, who will be a free agent this summer, has been perhaps the best player in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
  • Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) details Kawhi's heroics and discusses the future of the Raptors franchise -- with and without their star.

It’s the best scene from “Rounders” — when Mike busts Teddy KGB heads up, clears his debt with him and Grandma and has made enough to pay Professor Petrovsky back half the loan he gave him before the night started.

“That’s a safe play,” Mike says, until Teddy high steps on him and reminds the room he’s still up big from the last time they played.

Mike can go home with his health, but not his respect — and he makes the decision that he’d rather die than be looked at as a poker beta, so he sits back down and the two fight on with his life on the line.

There’s no explaining the mindset here other than some people are willing to lower their rock-bottom to six feet under the ground if it means the reward is living without regret.

The moment Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri signed off on the blockbuster Kawhi Leonard/DeMar DeRozan trade this past summer, he sat at that same table with Teddy KGB. The Raptors were drowning in playoff mediocrity, and while keeping DeRozan and Kyle Lowry together for the next two seasons was a more than safe play to guarantee postseason berths, the Raptors would have had to live with the East’s elite ‘sticking it in them’ every time the conference finals started.

What has transpired since the transaction is as close to the nuts as you can get without actually having it: Kawhi Leonard is a nuclear weapon who has been deployed on the basketball world and there’s no override.

In this semifinals series alone, he has totaled…

  • Game 1: 45 points, 81% FG
  • Game 2: 35 points, 71% FG
  • Game 3: 33 points, 61% FG
  • Game 4: 39 points, 65% FG

Efficiency numbers like these are usually reserved for the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert, giants who just camp out in the paint and dunk every rebound or loose ball that gravitates to them. What makes these statistics so eye-popping is that only 26.3% of Kawhi’s total field goal attempts have been shot between 0-3 feet away from the rim; everything else could technically be classified as a jump shot.

  • Mid-range field goal percentage: 64.3%
  • 3-point percentage: 52.6%
  • Free throw percentage: 86.0%

Oh, and for good measure: Kawhi on Sunday became the fifth player in NBA history to record 150 points, 30 rebounds and 15 assists through the first four games of a playoff series (per Elias Sports Bureau). The only other players to accomplish that in NBA history, you ask? Michael Jordan, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Kawhi’s productivity isn’t the result of being the beneficiary of having an all-world teammate running alongside him, either. As a matter of fact, he’s not only the best player on the floor — but the most important.

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