Toronto Raptors: An interesting starting five
SF – Kawhi Leonard – Los Angeles Clippers
It should come as no surprise that Leonard is the centrepiece of this team. The venerable small forward is one of the best two-way players in the league, a perennial all-star and a two-time champion. The entire offence of Raptors Reunion will run through him, and he will be asked to guard the other team’s best player. If this team is to have any chance at competing with LeBron’s Lakers or Kevin Durant’s Nets, Leonard will need to be able to handle a sizeable workload.
P.S. Jumping back into reality for a second, Leonard has a player option at the end of this season and as of this writing the Clippers are looking a little shaky. That’s all I’m going to say.
PF – Serge Ibaka – Los Angeles Clippers
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In our all-out raid of the Clippers, Raptors Reunion is also going to need Ibaka back. Although the Congolese big man has been nagged by a back injury this season, his presence both as a rim protector and a scoring threat makes him indispensable to Raptors Reunion.
Although his first season with the Clippers has been a bit of a clunker by his lofty standards, we know what Ibaka can do when at full strength.
C – Jonas Valanciunas – Memphis Grizzlies
How perfect would Valančiūnas fit in on the real Toronto Raptors… Anyways, the Lithuanian centre has blossomed into one of the premier bigs in the league with the Grizzlies, averaging a career-high 12.5 rebounds this season to go along with 17.1 points. After falling out of favour in Toronto, Valanciunas is on the cusp of being an all-star in Memphis.
PG – Lou Williams – Atlanta Hawks
I know he likes to come off the bench, but options at guard on this team are slim, so Raptors Reunion will be taking Williams out of his comfort zone and running him out as the team’s starting point guard. A fan favourite while with the Raptors, (he won NBA Sixth Man of the Year and got name-dropped in a Drake song, you tell me which is better), Williams got dealt from the Clippers to the Hawks at the trade deadline this season.
The homecoming for Lemon Pepper Lou has come with some slight declines in field goal percentage and points per game, but through 24 games with the Hawks, he’s shooting a career-high 44 per cent from three. On Raptors reunion, he’ll need to flex his playmaking muscles a little bit more than his scoring ones, but Williams can take some of the pressure off of Leonard on offence.
SG – Norman Powell – Portland Trail Blazers
With the way Powell is playing for Portland right now, there’s no way he can be left out of the starting lineup for Raptors Reunion. Traded for Gary Trent Jr. at the deadline, Powell has excelled thus far with his new team, averaging 17.0 points per game and shooting north of 50 per cent from the field.
Through four games with the Blazers in the playoffs, Powell has shown that he’s still the real Playoff P, averaging 18.0 points and shooting 41 per cent from three. He’s also playing 33.3 minutes per game in the playoffs, far more than he ever averaged with the Raptors in the postseason. His future is uncertain after this year, but he’s certainly endearing himself to a Portland team that’s hungry for a championship.
So, would a team with a starting rotation of Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valančiūnas, Lou Williams and Norman Powell win a championship? They wouldn’t be runaway favourites, but they have the pieces to at least get to the Eastern Conference Finals and lock horns with either Brooklyn or Philadelphia. A matchup against Brooklyn might be tough, but if they could get past the Nets, this team would beat whoever came out of the west and raise the Larry OB.