Of all the craziness from the last year in terms of player movement, Kawhi Leonard being traded from San Antonio to Toronto ended up being the biggest move of them all.
The Raptors took a major gamble on Leonard, both with his health coming off a quad injury that cost him almost all of 2017-18 and with the fact that he could leave in free agency this summer. They also risked alienating Kyle Lowry, their longest tenured player, by trading his best friend, DeMar DeRozan, and firing Dwane Casey after a Coach of the Year campaign to replace him with assistant Nick Nurse.
It was all incredibly bold, but the goal was simple: raise their ceiling to one of a championship contender. On Wednesday, they proved not just to be a contender but to be champions, as they defeated the Warriors in Game 6 on the road to win the NBA title. Leonard earned Finals MVP honors, nearly unanimously, and spoke after the game about the trade that brought him to Toronto — a place that wasn’t on his preferred list of trade destinations — and his mindset after that. Specifically, he touched on an early conversation with Kyle Lowry via text that set the table for the season.