By: Michael Tolliver Jr (Opinionated MJ)
First there was Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Then Kobe Bryant. Now there’s Kawhi Leonard.
Yes, Kawhi Leonard. Playing like another Jordan type. I could actually make a case that the team he plays for houses another key element that Jordan had alongside him in Scottie Pippen. That man is Pascal Siakam. He went from averaging 6.9 PPG last year to averaging 17.3 PPG. Also he was shooting 22% from 3 to shooting 37% from 3 this season. He’s been beyond instrumental on defense. He made the Scottie Pippen jump. Plain and simple. Year 3.
Back to Kawhi. He was traded from the Spurs to the Raptors, after being accused of skipping the year and qutting on his team. The excuse was injury, and we can visibly see he might’ve been worried about playing on that injury last year shortly affect it occurred. Maybe he needed to have a longer healing time. It created tension within the Spurs organization and made Kawhi fall from many Top 5 active lists rather it was from media or fans alike. That was an overreaction. Simply put. Did anybody pay attention to what Danny Green said about the situation? I guess not. Believe whatever you want.
Now we’ve seen Kawhi have a heavy hand in taking out 2 of the 3 other good teams in the east. The Orlando Magic were not to be a worry at all. They took 1 game and couldn’t adjust to the Raptors adjustments. In round two, Kawhi put away Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, AND Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s huge and heavily overlooked. He iced the entire series with a friendly bounce game winning shot. Luck? Then he took down the giant Giannis and his supporting cast that looked unstoppable heading into the Eastern Conference finals. Coincidence? There would’ve been no need to see them play the Celtics, the only other team that I considered strong enough to contend for a championship. They house many internal issues that Kawhi & the Raptors would’ve fully exposed, maybe even worse than Giannis did. Let me repeat, HE SLAYED THE GIANT, GIANNIS!
Now this round is for everything. Much on the line on both sides. Let me first admit, I’m a Warriors fan. I’m also a Kawhi fan. I know how that sounds. I didn’t believe in the Raptors until they got rid of DeRozan. I didn’t believe they could get past the Bucks and Sixers. With that being said, I now fear for Golden State. I know what I thought two years ago when the Warriors were playing the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Kawhi could change the entire landscape of the NBA if he wins this Championship. Easily. One superstar on a team to win a championship? Huge legacy move. Instantly puts him in the conversation to be the best in the world.
I didn’t mention how much I respect his teammates, well, everyone not named Kyle Lowry. Let me throw that in there to maintain honesty. I’ve been shocked with his play lately. He’s come up in big moments and hasn’t come up short in back to back games like he used to. Then there’s Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, the ascension of Norman Powell out of nowhere (or maybe he was the X Factor against the Bucks). Then there’s potential that OG Anunoby is coming back. So much defense. Let’s not ignore that the first 3 names I mentioned with Kawhi all came from the Western Conference. They’ve all seen the Warriors in the playoffs over the last several years. They have the experience of playing against the Warriors. They all come from good organizations and they were key in their many forms of success in the west. Ibaka used to be the Spurs kryptonite. The only one to dispel anything they’d do and the first since Kobe. I always felt like when the OKC Thunder traded Ibaka, there was no need for Kevin Durant to stay, they couldn’t stop the Warriors without Ibaka anyway.
The Raptors have a core of the same players who all have bad tastes in their mouths from losing to Golden State along with the hunger to win. I can’t really call this series either way but I’ve said Warriors in 6 because I’ve been a fan. It’s the safe choice. That doesn’t mean that the Raptors couldn’t win it in 5 or 6 games and come from the blindside like the 2004 Detroit Pistons did when NO ONE expected it. It’s time to eat or be eaten alive.
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