Which NBA playoff teams face uncertain futures?
It took five postseasons with no title before Masai Ujiri had seen enough.
With DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry anchoring the backcourt, the Toronto Raptors had seemingly tapped out. In five seasons from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the Raptors won more regular-season games than any other Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors saw more first-round exits than trips to the Eastern Conference finals, never reaching the NBA Finals.
And last July, Ujiri forced his move. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the leading scorer in franchise history at the summit of his profession — along with Jakob Poeltl along with a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs to get Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and money considerations. The Lowry-DeRozan backcourt was divided, the Coach of the Year Dwane Casey was let go after seven seasons, and a brand new age in Toronto had begun.
The results have, up to now, been optimistic. Despite Leonard missing about a quarter of this season, the Raptors currently have better championship chances than they did at this time last year. As such, Ujiri’s home run swing effectively put the rest of the league on notice. If DeRozan isn’t secure, who is? The same as Miami’s Big Three triggered the era of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal to other perennial underachievers to follow suit.
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