Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri called superstar forward Kawhi Leonard the best player in the league after he led the franchise to its first ever NBA Finals appearance, toppling the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, Kawhi Leonard didn’t really soak in the high praise from Ujiri. He wants to be on the best team, per Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.
Raptors' Kawhi Leonard on 'Best player in basketball': "I don't care about being the best player. I want to be the best team. … We're in the Finals and we're not done yet." pic.twitter.com/jAHZPPMS1H
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 26, 2019
This is the mindset any team would want from its superstar leader. However, it will surely be a daunting challenge for the first-time finalists. Kawhi Leonard and the Raps will have to go through the best team of the last five years, the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, to snatch that claim.
Nonetheless, Ujiri’s gamble on trading then-franchise centerpiece DeMar DeRozan for the two-way superstar prior to the start of the 2018-19 season has certainly paid off. Leonard essentially led the franchise to heights it has never been to before.
However, as Leonard said, their job is not done. Obviously, the goal is to ultimately win that coveted Larry O’Brien trophy in June and be crowned NBA champions.
Nonetheless, Toronto and all of Canada will surely enjoy this historic accomplishment for now. They deserve it after years and years of disappointment.
With Leonard’s performance in these playoffs, he is without a doubt the greatest Raptor of all time. While his shooting in these East Finals didn’t jump off the page, it doesn’t in any way diminish his spectacular play throughout the six games, especially in Toronto’s four wins.
Leonard averaged 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. More importantly, his clampdown defense on Bucks superstar and MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the key reasons why the Raptors are now in the Finals.
What a redemption story for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Leonard sat out all but nine games last season and fans forgot how good this man really is. After going through all that drama in his last year in San Antonio, Leonard has once again stamped his name as one of the best players in the league, and he’s proving it with his unbelievable postseason, leading the Raptors to the Finals.