June 13 is a day that Toronto Raptors players, coaches, and fans will remember for a long time. On this day, the Raptors left a mark in NBA championship history by beating off the most dominant team in the past 5 years—the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have practically controlled the league for the past 5 years, appearing in 5 consecutive NBA finals with 3 championships.
So how did the Raptors knock off this NBA powerhouse to clinch their first Championship?
Depth. One of the most evident differences between the teams was depth, and it was especially noticeable when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were out during Game 6. Fred Vanvleet and Serge Ibaka contributed significant minutes for the Raptors coming off the bench, averaging 32.5 and 19.3 MPG, respectively. With Durant out for most of the series, there was a significant drop off between the starters and bench players in terms of productivity for the Warriors. The bottom line is that Toronto had more weapons than Golden State. The Raptors had 6 players averaging double digits throughout the series, whereas the Warriors only had 3: Curry, Thompson, and Green.
Kawhi Leonard. Throughout each game of the NBA Finals, Kawhi Leonard was the key for Toronto’s success. He averaged 28.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG in the 6 game series, scoring over 20 points every game. The consistency he displayed during the series was vital for the Raptors to knock off the defending champs, and it led him to earning his second NBA Finals MVP award. Now, the big question is…with Kawhi approaching free agency, where will he go? Will he stay in Toronto or sign with a new team?