Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics are still the favorites in the Eastern Conference, but they may no longer have the best player in a head-to-head playoff series with Toronto if a healthy Leonard materializes up north. That’s far from a sure thing, but it is a bit of a concern from Boston’s perspective. It isn’t just that the Raptors got Leonard here, it’s the price they got him at. Leonard is a postseason upgrade over DeRozan by a wide margin and that’s what matters from Toronto’s standpoint after so many playoff collapses in recent years. Ujiri also managed to upgrade his playoff rotation by adding Green over Poeltl. Green will come in handy for small ball matchups against the Celtics and other East foes much more than Poeltl ever would.
Here’s a look at a hypothetical matchup with the Celtics and Raptors right now, assuming small ball lineups for both squads:
PG: Irving vs. Lowry
SG: Brown vs. Green
SF: Hayward vs. Leonard
PF: Tatum vs. Anunoby
C: Horford vs. Ibaka
Baynes/Theis/Morris/Ojeleye/Wanamaker/Smart/Rozier vs. Valanciunas/Siakam/Miles/Powell/Van Vleet/Wright
The Celtics have the edge there overall but the gap talent-wise between the two squads just got a little bit closer. The Raptors have far more outside shooting now with Leonard and Green over DeRozan and a more switchable lineup defensively. That’s what they are going to need in order to take down Boston in any seven-game series.
Boston Sports Journal — Raptors trading for Kawhi Leonard gives Celtics a new top threat in the east
So, where do the new-look Raptors fall in this new Eastern Conference hierarchy? Let’s take a look.
1. Boston Celtics
There is no question that the Celtics are now the cream of the Eastern crop. Really, they’re the only team that can honestly be talked about among the league’s elite without the qualification that they “play in the East.” As currently constructed, I would call Boston the second-best team in the league behind the Warriors. If they indeed re-sign Marcus Smart, which is , there is a universe in which the Celtics can legitimately win the whole thing.
First, let’s point out the obvious that they took the Cavs to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last season WITHOUT Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. As we sit here talking about all these new players on new teams, in essence, the Celtics are adding two All-NBA talents to a team that was already one game from the Finals.
CBSSports — Where Raptors rank in east’s new hierarchy
We’ll have lots of time over the next few months to pontificate about the order of things in the new BEASTern Conference (that’s right, west, we’re coming for you), but there’s no day like today, in the aftermath of yesterday’s trade, to consider the landscape.
I know Jaylen Brown wanted Lebron to stay, but this new east is a breath of fresh air and ushers in a post-Lebron era with some unpredictability. The top six in the east is intriguing, with some of the league’s brightest young stars and enigmatic mixes of talent (what is Washington going to be? Milwaukee?), but with the Leonard trade it now appears that three teams are firmly ensconced as favorites to make the finals and maybe even challenge the Warriors. When’s the last time we’ve seriously considered three teams to come out of the east? This is fun!
Writers are already comparing the rosters of the Celtics and Raptors (again, something I’m sure we’ll be doing ad nauseam in September and early October) and putting together an initial list of east playoff teams. These few days in July with no major, regular season sporting events are usually the slowest news days of the calendar year, but the Leonard deal has everyone thinking it’s fall already.
What do you all think? Who’s tops in the east?
NBCSports — Even with Kawhi, Raptors looking up at Celtics
On page 2, I.T. empathizes with DeMar
On Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors dealt DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. Seeing DeRozan, who reportedly had received assurances he would not be traded less than two weeks ago, traded from the team that drafted him spurred Thomas to Twitter.
A number of players emerged from the woodwork yesterday and took to twitter to declare that the Raptors should erect a statue of DeMar DeRozan in Toronto.
Isaiah Thomas took to twitter to remind the world that this whole situation isn’t unique.
The number of one and two year deals that players have signed in the last few years should continue to rise, as players look to gain control of their own destinies. Both Thomas and DeRozan were adored in Boston and Toronto, and brought their respective franchises out of some tough times. Both wanted to stay and became faces of their franchises. Both were shipped out of town. And in both cases, the franchises made the right decisions.
At least DeRozan is going to get paid for the next two seasons. I.T is still feeling the after effects of last summer’s mid-summer shocker.
And finally, a morning update on the Marcus Smart situation
Let’s get this done today, guys.