And just like that, the foe that vanquished the Milwaukee Bucks this postseason is gone nearly as soon as he arrived. The Toronto Raptors always knew trading for Kawhi Leonard was a calculated risk, and one that paid off handsomely with a championship. Now though, Masai Ujiri and company have to pick up the pieces with the bombshell news that Leonard is heading to the Los Angeles Clippers with Paul George joining him to team up.
In his wake, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers look like the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference. I’m not counting Boston out at this point either, they still have some assets left in the war chest and Danny Ainge is as shrewd an operator as there is in the NBA. One more big midseason swing for them and they could rank right up there with the class of the east. More importantly, this is a massive development for the Bucks, and specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Kawhi looked like the only defender capable of knocking Giannis out of rhythm last postseason, after he solved Al Horford. The stunning dropoff after game two sent Milwaukee packing in surprising fashion, but now, the road looks far less murky to the finals. It couldn’t come at a more opportune time either, with Giannis eligible to sign a supermax extension next summer. Who knows about Brooklyn, but with Durant likely out this season, the dominos are certainly setting up squarely for Horst, Bud and company to show Giannis that their team can compete for years to come, hopefully encouraging him to stick it out for the long haul in Milwaukee.
The regular season is still many months away, but the insanity of this offseason already has me giddy to see all these newly constructed teams. Feel free to use this comment section as an open space to talk about the ramifications of the Kawhi move. We’ll keep it pinned for a few days to the top.