Toronto Mike

2019 Raptors NBA Championship Roster: Where Are They Now?

The 2018-19 National Basketball Association season began the end of an era. It was the final season of the Golden State Warriors’ first dynastic run, including five consecutive trips to the Finals and three championships. However, it also was the beginning of an era of parity. In five NBA seasons since 2018, the league has crowned five different championships. It’s the first time that has happened since 1976-1980. And it all started with the Toronto Raptors, a team that was gone as quickly as they came. So where is that 2018-19 Raptors team now? Here are five of the key cogs from that team.  

Kawhi Leonard | Los Angeles Clippers

Before Leonard came to town, the Raptors were consistent contenders in the Eastern Conference. Between 2013-18, Toronto averaged 53 wins per season, made the Eastern Conference Semifinals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals once. However, they lacked a true superstar and couldn't get past LeBron James, which is why they were not an online sports betting favorite. Fast forward to 2018. LeBron signs a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, moving to the Western Conference for the first time in his career. With the East now wide open, the Raptors pounced on the opportunity, trading for Leonard after his tenuous 2017-18 season with the Spurs.

What happened next was legendary. Along with Raptors legend Kyle Lowry, Leonard immediately elevated Toronto into a legitimate title contender. His buzzer-beater in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is perhaps the greatest moment in franchise history. They cruised past the Bucks and an injured Warriors team for the first title in team history.

However, the victory was short-lived. The Raptors knew Kawhi could be a one-season rental, which proved true. After the season, Leonard became a free agent and signed a three-year, $103 million contract with the Clippers. In five seasons with the club, he has failed to live up to expectations, struggling with injuries and playoff disappointments.

Source: Ryan, via Unsplash

Kyle Lowry | Miami Heat

While Leonard led Toronto to the NBA Finals, Lowry was the heart and soul of the team. Lowry spent nearly a decade in Toronto, making six all-star teams and becoming a fan favorite. He is the franchise's all-time leader in win shares, three-point field goals, assists, and steals. After Leonard left, Lowry stuck around and led the Raptors to a 53-win season, losing a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

However, the season showed just how good Lowry was in his first season without his superstar teammate. After a disappointing 27-45 2020-21 season, Miami acquired the all-star in a sign-and-trade deal. Since then, Lowry has been a crucial part of a 2021-22 team that was a game away from the NBA Finals and a 2022-23 team that reached the NBA Finals. However, his success immediately following Leonard's departure is primarily due to the next player on our list.

Pascal Siakam | Toronto Raptors

Siakam is an underrated contributor to the 2019 NBA Finals winner. A late first-round pick in 2016, Siakam has always been an underdog. He took a significant step in 2018-2019, becoming a starter and averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds after averaging just 5.6 and 3.9, respectively across his first two seasons. He was also a key defensive contributor.

Since the title, he has only elevated his game. The Raptors' surprising follow-up season after the title was thanks mainly to Siakam becoming an All-Star for the first time, averaging a then-career-high 22.9 points. In five seasons since the title, Siakam has averaged 22.7 points per game along with 7.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 47% shooting as the Raptors #1 option. That includes a career-high of 24.2 points per game in 2022-23 and another All-Star campaign for the forward.

Source: Joshua Chua, via Unsplash

Serge Ibaka | Milwaukee Bucks

Of all the players on this list besides Leonard, Ibaka arguably had the most experience in high-leverage postseason moments. He had spent his first eight seasons on Oklahoma City teams that regularly were favorites in the West and made a Finals appearance. For the 2019 Finals run, Ibaka provided a key defensive presence, logging 1.4 shots per game during the regular season. Since the championship, he has moved to the Clippers and Bucks, continuing to get minutes on teams with playoff aspirations. However, he has recently signed with the EuroLeague’s FC Bayern Munich.

Fred VanVleet | Houston Rockets

No player has made a more significant jump after the 2019 Finals than VanVleet. The point guard was a role player on the 2018-19 squad, the backup to Kyle Lowry. However, he immediately became a starter after Leonard left, being moved to the shooting guard position. He had a career year, averaging 17.6 points per game. After Lowry's departure, he returned to point guard and made an All-Star team in 2021-22. The former Wichita State Shocker signed a three-year deal with the Rockets this offseason, his first season away from Toronto.

What Is Next for the Raptors?

Much has changed since the title run, leaving the Raptors in a rebuild. While Siakam is still playing well, the team is 10-14 and missed the playoffs last season. Scottie Barnes is a promising player, but they'll need to add more talent before making another run.

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