How does Kawhi effect the Bucks standing in the East?
Prior to the Leonard trade the Bucks were poised to compete with the Raptors for one of the top 3 spots, but the addition of Leonard likely places the Raptors firmly ahead of the Bucks this upcoming season.
After giving assistant coach Nick Nurse the reigns to the offense, the Raptors adopted a more modern offense which focused on spacing and efficiency. Led by a transformed Demar DeRozan that had career highs in 3 pointers made and 3 point percentage, the Raptors finished in the top 5 in offensive rating during the regular season.
Swapping out DeRozan for a more efficient shooter in Leonard and turning the keys over to Nick Nurse places the Raptors in good position to maintain a top 5 offense in the NBA.
On the defensive end the Raptors finished with the 5th best defensive rating in the NBA last season. With the addition of Danny Green and likely the best wing defender in the NBA in Leonard the Raptors shot at remaining a top 5 defensive team remains high.
While pulling off a top 5 offense and defense is no easy feat (only 3 teams have managed to do it in the pasts 5 years), the Raptors are in good position to repeat last years feat.
The Milwaukee Bucks on the other hand finished 7th offensively and 17th defensively; and while it is well documented that Jason Kidd got sub-optimal output for the parts he was given, it seems unlikely the Bucks can make the jump from the 17th ranked defense into the top 5 without adding much to their core.
Before the Leonard trade, there was a legitimate argument to be made that the Bucks could overtake the Raptors in this year’s standings but replacing Demar DeRozan with a surefire top 10 player in the NBA in Leonard almost certainly puts Milwaukee in a lower tier than the Raptors.
With the Bucks and the Raptors firmly in the top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference, there certainly is a possibility they run into each other in the 2nd round. There are few teams that have players with the size, speed and strength to match up with Giannis, but the addition of Kawhi certainly gives the Raptors someone to match Giannis. That being said, the Bucks did a good job limiting everyone not named Demar DeRozan (who averaged 33 points per game against the Bucks last season) when facing Toronto last season.
How does Kawhi affect Giannis’ argument for best player in the east?
Prior to the Leonard trade most fans agreed that Giannis was the best player in the East after Lebron’s departure. If you are judging both players by their last full season in the NBA, there is little doubt that Kawhi is the better player. But, Giannis is entering his age 24 season and has made sizable improvements in each of his 5 seasons in the NBA. Kawhi on the other hand is coming off a season lost due to injury, and there really isn’t much certainty if he will come back 100% this year. As of right now its tough to put Giannis ahead of Kawhi but I wouldn’t be surprised if Giannis took a leap that secured him as king of the east.