• Gerald Malunga

Toronto is now a premier landing spot for top free agents

For years the Toronto Raptors have always fallen short in the Playoffs and watched in envy as their Eastern Conference rivals advanced to the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals, however, they have turned a corner this season and they are showing signs of a championship caliber team.

One of the main reasons behind the upturn in their postseason fortunes has been the presence of the battle tested Kawhi Leonard who is their bona fide leader. Many consider the acquisition (trade) of Leonard as a “rental” given the fact that there is no guarantee that he will commit to a long-term deal in Toronto and re-sign with the franchise.

Whether he re-signs or not, the Raptors have now solidified themselves as a premier destination for any top free agents in the off-season. They have showcased that they are only a marquee player away from dining at the top table in the terms of challenging for a title.

Before Leonard’s arrival the Raptors had quality pieces but lacked the final piece in the jigsaw, they will be in the same position again during the free agency period as they will be looking for a key addition to lead them to another chase for a championship.

The Raptors have the likes of Pascal Siakam (an emerging star who has the makings of a future All-Star), Kyle Lowry (an All-Star guard), Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Danny Green and many other reliable role players, the addition of a ready-made star (a case in point is this season with Leonard) would make them a force in the Conference and the league as a whole again.

Many other teams may present better financial packages and championship traditions but very few of them are a superstar away from contending like the Raptors. Very few teams have found instant success like the Raptors when acquiring top tier players, the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving look to be less than perfect match, the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James are still figuring out how to get the best out of each other and the superstar stacked Philadelphia 76ers are yet to gel.

The Raptors’ ability to not only accommodate Leonard but to surround him with elite talent and a strong bench is a sign of just how organized the Canada-based franchise is. They have recorded 50 plus wins for the past two seasons, their project looks to be well on the way to coming to fruition compared to many other teams.

The tricky task of facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference Finals is on the cards in what is set to be an entertaining tussle. If they get past the Bucks and proceed to the NBA Finals they will have an even better claim as the top destination for free agents in the league as they would almost certainly guarantee championship contention.

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