It’s no secret the Toronto Raptors underwent a massive redesign this past offseason. What’s most exciting, however is the sheer defensive potential this new team possesses.
Masai Ujiri’s efforts in the off-season give this new look Raptors squad two new faces who will help lock down on the defensive end. A third face will be looking to make the jump to an elite defender this season. We’ve seen glimpses in the pre-season, but it will be put to the test come next Wednesday vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kawhi Leonard, Small/Power Forward
Kawhi Leonard is the most obvious defensive addition. Anytime you have a former defensive player of the year in your lineup, you’re looking good. Leonard is still in his prime, despite sitting out most of last year.
This is the man who locked down LeBron James in 2014, while still being a fairly raw player. Standing at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Leonard is one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
He can guard multiple positions due to his speed and athleticism. He can defend the perimeter just as well as he can defend the post. His 7-foot-3 wingspan is just plain ridiculous and I’m salivating already thinking about his blocking potential.
In addition to being a physical specimen, his IQ and general feel for the game are off the charts. He’s not often caught flat footed.
Not much else needs to be said about the man who’s proven he’s a consensus top three defender in the league.
Danny Green, Guard
At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Green can lock down the perimeter. Green led the league in blocks last year with 80, nine more than second place LeBron James with 71.
At 31 years old, Green is in a perfect spot with the Raptors to consistently perform on the defensive end. While Leonard will be guarding other teams first option, he can pick up the second option effectively or even the third with the young defensive stalwart OG Anunoby on the court.
OG Anunoby, Wing
Anunoby will be entering his second season for the Raptors this year. We’ve seen the man lock down James Harden last year as a rookie, as well as many other teams first options.
At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he has drawn comparisons to Leonard in his rookie year. Both raw offensively, but the athleticism, instincts and IQ of a mature, fleshed out player on defense. If Anunoby can even become half of what a prime, healthy Leonard is then Raptors fans will be laughing.
Anunoby is part of an elite group of players with both a high offensive efficiency rating (130) and a high defensive efficiency rating (93) from last season. To average a 93 DER as a rookie is phenomenal. With a bigger role this year, OG will be expected to make an even larger impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Defense wins championships. With these three guys who can lock down just about any player in the league, defense is the least of the Raptors concerns.
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