Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard team up to make Raptors perhaps best team in the East

Perhaps, it’s time to hedge bets on the NBA’s Eastern Conference champion. Is it fair to revise a prediction after just two weeks of the season?

Maybe it was too easy and too convenient to throw the Boston Celtics into the NBA Finals, given they went seven games against Cleveland and LeBron James last season in the conference finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Maybe it was too easy to dismiss the Toronto Raptors, given they couldn’t get past the Cavaliers and James in three of the past four playoffs.

Maybe it was easy to forget how good Kawhi Leonard is because he played in just nine games last season. Toronto, a 59-win team in 2017-18, swapped DeMar DeRozan for Leonard, an MVP candidate and one of the best two-way players in the league when healthy, and Danny Green, who is an undervalued piece of the Toronto-San Antonio trade.

Let’s not making sweeping conclusions after six games, but the Raptors are every bit as good as the Celtics. Maybe better. They can be the best team in the East.

“We brought in guys like Danny and Kawhi who have won championships which is something we’re trying to obtain,” Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’re all on the same page. We’re just trying to figure it out and win as much possible.”

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When the 6-0 Raptors take on the 6-0 Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, it will mark the first time in NBA history that teams with 6-0 records play each other. Unfortunately for fans, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (concussion protocol program) and Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard (rest) are out.

Lowry is off to a fantastic start, averaging 19.8 points and 10.3 assists. His career-high in assists is 7.4 per season. Lowry is the rare player who manages to have career season after career season into his 30s. A four-time All-Star, Lowry no longer is playing with the same chip on his shoulder as he did earlier in his career when he couldn’t find a home with a team. He has found it with the Raptors.

“I’m motivated every time I take the basketball court,” Lowry said. “I love to play basketball, and I just want to make sure I’m playing basketball at a high level. I continue to work on my game. I always want to continue to grow and become a better basketball player every year.

“The one thing I’ve always tried to do is be a winner. I don’t really care about anything else but winning.”

President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made the bold offseason decisions to dismiss Dwane Casey and hire assistant Nick Nurse and trade DeRozan, who is Lowry’s close friend. Lowry doesn’t view every question about Leonard and Nurse as a comparison to DeRozan and Casey.

“Every one’s in their own situation,” Lowry said. “Dwane is doing an unbelievable job in Detroit, and DeMar is playing unbelievable, just like he’s always done. He has an opportunity to grow in a good situation. With us, we have to understand you have to go out there do what you want to do for yourself.”

The bottom line is that Leonard makes the Raptors better. 

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