Armstrong: Kawhi helped elevate basketball in Canada
It’s July and we’ve had an incredibly fun run by the Raptors this season. What a fantastic ride.
I’m a bit exhausted, but excited by all the joy it brought hoops fans across the country. It was certainly the highlight of my 21-year tenure as a Raptors analyst.
I’m going to take a little break from my TSN.ca writing gig until the fall when NBA training camps resume. A little down time to recharge the batteries is always good. Hope each of you has a great summer.
1. KAWHI LEONARD, DANNY GREEN DEPART: Both of these players made a significant impact on the direction and success of the Raptors and I wish them nothing but the best of luck with their new teams. It’s the nature of free agency in the NBA. Players come and go, but the fond memories that they brought this past season will last forever. For Raptors fans it’s onward and upward. It’s been an amazing six-year run, filled with tremendous success as the organization with the best record in the East over that time frame. And then the whole process culminated with an historic NBA championship. The bottom line is that the franchise will continue to grow, have success and reach new goals and objectives over the years to come. The Raptors have committed ownership, elite management, excellent coaching and a top-notch support staff. Add it all up and you have an organization that is first class and provides a place that players can win, improve, grow, mature and enjoy their experience playing in a big-time market with a rabid national following. That’s not changing. The foundation has been laid, the sleeping giant has awoken and, despite the departures, the grind continues. I have complete faith that the proper path the franchise has been on these past six years will continue to thrive due to the quality of talented people in place.
2. PATRICK MCCAW (Raptors): I like the fact that he was re-signed. He’s a rangy and mobile defender who has a nice feel for the game offensively. With a full training camp and the ability to compete for minutes, he’ll be a player ready to contribute.
3. RAPTORS’ ACQUISITIONS: Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are newcomers who will add depth and talent to the mix for coach Nick Nurse. Each has talents that shine and other areas that need improvement. The player development and coaching that has existed in Toronto during this six-year run has been excellent. If each of these guys buys into the philosophy and culture that is firmly in place, it will allow them to reach new heights.
4. OG ANUNOBY, NORMAN POWELL (Raptors): Both of these guys are in a wonderful position to take advantage of the additional minutes on the table with the departures of Leonard and Green. Look at the terrific improvements this season by Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, who were huge contributors in the playoff run. It’s now time for both of these guys to take that next step in their development. The organization has shown patience and commitment in both cases. Now that belief needs a greater return on investment. Both players are capable of doing it. In my opinion, they’re the two most important pieces in the puzzle for the 2019-20 Raptors. If they thrive, the gap that needs to be bridged with the off-season departures will be lessened.
5. RUSSELL WESTBROOK (Thunder): It’s time for him to be traded. With Paul George departing, OKC is in revamp mode. It will be healthy for him to move if GM Sam Presti can get a deal that makes both short and long-term sense for their franchise. It’s hard to be in this position. The team is no longer a contender in the Western Conference. It’s time to start the restructuring. Westbrook’s contract is massive and a big concern, but he’s still a tremendous player. His ability to impact winning will still be in play the next few seasons.