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Idan Ravin: From Lawyer to Elite NBA Trainer

Idan Ravin went from practicing law to training NBA superstars. He walks us through his unique journey.

Alex Kennedy

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Before NBA trainer Idan Ravin began practicing with some of basketball’s biggest superstars, he was practicing law in San Diego.

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Ravin attended California Western School of Law. Shortly after completing law school, he was hired by a San Diego law firm doing litigation work. However, he quickly realized that he hated being an attorney. Even though he had invested many years into becoming a lawyer, Ravin decided to walk away from his job and guaranteed salary to find a new career path.

“It happened over many years but, in a nutshell, it was because I just didn’t like what I was doing,” Ravin told Basketball Insiders. “I was practicing law and I was miserable. I guess I chose a career that I was supposed to do rather than what I was meant to do. I’m working at this law firm and I’m dying inside. I didn’t have the courage to even think [about quitting] for a very long time. It was something that kind of grew gradually.”

While in San Diego, Ravin began volunteering as a basketball coach at a local YMCA to cheer himself up, and he managed to lead a team of pre-teens to an undefeated season. He had always loved basketball, playing countless pick-up games while in college – including some with Maryland Terrapins’ players. He dreaded going to work at his law firm, but he couldn’t wait for practices and games with his YMCA team. At that point, he decided to follow his passion and started pursuing a career in basketball.

“I was volunteering there with the kids just to escape from that life that I didn’t like,” Ravin said. “I started volunteering, hoping it would bring some normality into my life. Meanwhile, I was practicing law; I hadn’t quit my day job. But it got to a point after many years where I started realizing, ‘Wow, I really enjoy this and I’m actually pretty good at this.’ Then I sort of made that switch and started committing myself to doing it more full time. So it wasn’t like I just woke up one morning and said, ‘Okay, enough is enough, I am going to do this.’ It was more like I eased my way into it, just to be able to get out of the office.”

IvanInside3Ravin did eventually quit his job and moved back to Maryland. This was a risky career change, but Ravin was confident he could succeed in the basketball world. First, he thought about becoming an agent to put his law background to use. However, he soured on that idea, choosing instead to focus on training.

He started working out a group of players he had known from college, who were now trying to play overseas. A number of the players in Ravin’s group were friends with an extremely talented point guard who decided to participate in the workouts as well.

That point guard was named Steve Francis.

Francis, who is from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins, was intrigued by the former lawyer with the unique training methods (such as throwing tennis balls at players during dribbling drills). Not only did he train with Ravin’s group, he kept working out with Ravin after that. The two worked together while Francis prepared for the pre-draft process, and he ended up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Francis and Ravin’s workout sessions continued after the top prospect entered the league. Suddenly, Ravin was coaching one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming point guards not long after coaching YMCA kids.

“Working with younger kids led me to older kids, which led me to taller and faster kids, which led me to even better kids, which then eventually led me to college kids, professional [overseas] kids and then NBA kids,” Ravin said with a laugh. “I never ever intended to be here; I never envisioned that I would be here. It was just more like I found something that I really loved and I was just stubborn enough to believe I could do it.

“I think sometimes people think that I just went from practicing law straight to training NBA players, but it was really not like that at all. For a long time, metaphorically, I was the zero-star chef. Then, I became a quarter-star chef, then eventually a one-star chef, then a two-star chef and then, years later, I would consider myself a five-star chef. It was just something that took a lot of time.”

With Francis as his first major client, Ravin started getting some exposure and new players. The point guard was so impressed with Ravin’s training style and basketball mind that he started talking him up to other NBA players. Soon, thanks in large part to Francis’ referrals, Ravin began working out other pros such as Elton Brand (the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft) and Juan Dixon (who was also from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins). Many other NBA players eventually followed, and Ravin became one of the top trainers in the business.

Today, Ravin’s client list looks like an All-Star team. He has trained LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love among many others. He has spent varying amounts of time working out these players, but he has trained all of them at some point. In addition to his superstar clients, he has also worked out well-known players like Al Jefferson, Wesley Matthews, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Joe Johnson, Tyson Chandler, Ty Lawson, Josh Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire among others.

“It was just sort of a word of mouth thing, where one player would recommend me to another player,” Ravin said when asked how he built his client list. “I wasn’t soliciting; I didn’t have relationships with people [around the NBA]. I don’t come from that world. My parents teach Jewish history! They don’t know the NBA world or professional sports. My uncle isn’t an agent – he doesn’t work in the league office. I don’t have those connections, so I just continued to try to do a good job with everybody and then that person would tell another person who would tell another person and then, eventually, you have a good player. With each person, the most important thing is you have to help them excel. [Players came] because the proof was in the pudding. So if I did a really good job with X and then people see X’s growth, they would ask X, ‘What did you do?’ And then X would share a little bit and that led to Y and to Z [coming to train with me too]. That’s how it grew. That’s kind of how it went, very slow and organic.”

Ravin’s workouts are known for being intense and exhausting – as well as unorthodox – with the idea being that actual games will be much easier if a player’s training sessions are rigorous. Another one of Ravin’s specialties is designing different workouts to fit each of his players’ specific needs.

“He is able to put you through a workout that suits your game,” said Blake Griffin, who has only worked out with Ravin a few times but came away impressed. “He’s a good motivator and he has a good understanding of the game.”

When asked what separates him from other NBA trainers in the business, Ravin admits he doesn’t know much about how others operate as he has always just stuck to his own methods. But there are a few things he feels strongly about. For one, he limits the number of players he’s training at one time so his clients can get individual attention. Second, he plans out unique workouts for each of his players based on what they need to work on rather than training all of his players the same way.

“I guess I’m just more customized,” Ravin said. “I wouldn’t take on 40 players; I wouldn’t have 50 people in the gym. Everybody does their work differently, but that’s just never been my approach. I just try to create a more unique experience for the athlete and try to find ways to help them in terms of developing them physically and mentally. I can’t actually speak to what other people do, because I have no idea what other people do. I just really try to give an unconventional, customized approach to every particular athlete. I watch the Food Network a lot to try and learn how to cook. Now, imagine one of the Iron Chefs lets you go into his house and he’ll make an awesome dinner for you, but you get to pick all of the proteins, the veggies, the fruits and all of that. Well, I hope to give that kind of [customizable] Iron Chef experience to the athletes that I work with.”

Over the years, Ravin developed the nickname “The Hoops Whisperer” (which is also the name of his memoir). He has received rave reviews from some of the biggest stars in the NBA. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony among others offered testimonials for Ravin’s website, praising the trainer and his methods.

“Idan inspired me to see my full potential, to become more than others had ever expected of me and challenge myself to do more than I had even expected of myself,” Curry said. “He showed me the importance of resilience and determination, and to capitalize on all my opportunities I had coming out of school and even to this day. His challenge to never become ‘regular’ stuck with me and kept me fierce in my determination to be committed to who I am, what I stand for, and to leave my lasting fingerprints on the game I so dearly love.”

“Idan is the first guy that I’ve worked with that brought something different to the workouts, who pushed me past my limits, who made me think of the game on a different level,” Durant said. “He pushed me with his words, encouraged me and built my confidence as the days went on. Truly one of a kind and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from him.”

“I never imagined that when I first worked with Idan before my rookie year, our relationship would extend more than a decade,” Anthony said. “He has influenced me tremendously and I am very grateful for his loyalty, friendship and guidance. He is passionate about everything he does and, while some may consider his methods unorthodox, the end results for me have been remarkable.”

While Ravin now has the respect of many superstars and people within the basketball world, that didn’t come right away. Initially, people were skeptical of him due to his unusual training style and the fact that he was a former lawyer with zero high-level basketball credentials. Today, he’s largely accepted by the basketball community, but says he still faces his share of doubters and skeptics.

“Well, I mean, everybody still looks at me funny because that space is filled with a lot of judgment and a lot of prejudice; [The belief is], ‘If you don’t come from that world, how could you know that world?’ Ravin said. “That will always exist and I’m okay with that. It’s alright for people to be skeptical. I don’t work for them and my priority is to be happy. But yeah, it takes a long time to be good at anything [so I had to improve early on and then showcase my ability]. But at the same time, I think I have a gift with people, I think I have really good intuition and I think I can just figure out stuff sort of on my own [so I didn’t need to come from the basketball world].

“There are plenty of amazing chefs who never went to the French Culinary Institute, but when you taste their food, you aren’t asking them where they went to college. There’s plenty of amazing screenwriters who don’t have a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia, but when you see their film, you don’t say, ‘Hey, where did you study?’ I find that with the athletes – and the athletes are really, really smart – they don’t ask you about your playing credentials or your PhD in Exercise Science. They are just saying, ‘Wow, I have access to a lot of different people and this has been the most helpful thing for my career of all the people I’ve ever been around.’ So I didn’t find myself having to prove anything to anyone; it was more like I just had to do my best and give the athletes the best that I could. Over time, you gain experience and you obviously become better. I’m sure the first time you wrote, you were just okay. Now, you’re considered brilliant. It just takes time to kind of get better at your craft.”

Even though Ravin has established himself as an elite trainer, he continues to work extremely hard and put in the necessary time to continue being great at his craft. His daily schedule is brutal. He wakes up shortly after 4 a.m. on most days and gets his own workout in around 4:45 a.m. Then, he’ll train his first player of the day around 6:30 a.m. After the workout, they’ll typically get smoothies and some food. Later in the day, he’ll work out additional players in the afternoon and the evening. He lets players decide when they’ll train, since their schedules can be equally packed. And in addition to his training with players, Ravin also has a number of side projects that take up his time. He owns some businesses, invests in a number of others, and has a partnership with Dove Men+Care as a fitness expert. Even though his planner is often packed, Ravin couldn’t be happier with how he’s spending his time – mainly because he never has to step foot in a law firm.

“I don’t mind the schedule,” Ravin said. “It’s just like you: you found something you really love to do, so you just try to give as much time to it as you can. We’re both kindred spirits in that respect.”

This summer, in addition to working with his normal cast of veterans, Ravin has been training three of the top rookies in the 2015 NBA Draft class: Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Miami’s Justise Winslow. Ravin has enjoyed working with the prospects and insists that all three players have star potential. While he’s a bit biased since they’re his clients, Ravin has worked with many stars behind the scenes and knows what to look for when projecting how a player will develop.

“They have just been terrific,” Ravin said of Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow. “It’s a really scary time in their life, going from that sort of cocoon in college to this world of grown men who are all tall, fast, strong, rich and successful with an amazing résumé. It’s a very scary place, but their ability to handle it all has been very impressive. I think they are all going to be terrific.”

Ravin gave his scouting report on each individual player and how they’ve looked.

Okafor: “I think Jahlil could be Rookie of the Year and eventually the best big man in the world. Like the others, he is just amazingly awesome, diligent, strong, super bright and thoughtful.”

Winslow: “I think Justise could be an absolute motherf***er. When you’re around Justise, you feel like you’re around a college professor because he’s just very mature, bright, thoughtful and hardworking. But it’s not just that he’s hardworking – he’s also very, very, very talented.”

Cauley-Stein: “I think Willie could be revolutionary. You know what’s interesting? I think Willie’s versatility is extraordinary and I don’t think people even know it yet. I think he’ll eventually be able to shoot it very well, he puts the ball on the floor well and he runs well. He’s incredibly versatile. I think it would be a shame to just put him underneath the basket and have him run up and down the court blocking shots. I think that wouldn’t be taking advantage of his gifts and I don’t think that’s what he’s destined to be. I think it would kind of be putting him in handcuffs if that is his role and that is what he is limited to, because he could be very special.”

If Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow reach their full potential and do indeed become stars, they’ll join the long list of franchise players who have worked out under Ravin.

Many fans don’t know Ravin since he does all of his work with players behind the scenes (and typically during the offseason). But, without question, he has worked out a player from your favorite team. It’s even quite possible he helped your favorite player develop. Ravin’s training has had a huge impact on the NBA and many players have him to thank for their progress and success.

Not bad for a litigation lawyer and volunteer YMCA coach.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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High-Performance Mindfulness: The Missing Link To DeMarcus Cousins’ Recovery

Jake Rauchbach discusses DeMarcus Cousins and one of the under-explored, but more critical aspects of the injury recovery process.

Jake Rauchbach

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Last week, DeMarcus Cousins sustained another career-threatening injury, tearing his ACL during a pickup game in Las Vegas.

Cousins, who battled back from a ruptured Achilles this past season, is now in jeopardy of missing a big chunk of the upcoming season for his third time in as many years.

He is expected to miss major time for a third straight season due to a lower leg injury. Before tearing his left Achilles on Jan. 26 2018, Cousins’ durability was never really in question. Before the initial injury, the big-man missed over 20 games just once in a season.

Virtually every year, we see stories similar to Cousins. A player who, at one time in his career had little to no history of injury, gradually becomes engulfed in a seemingly chronic and potentially career-ending pattern for injury – Derrick Rose being a prime example of this.

Common thought for chronic injury issues points back to the physical or structural aspect. Some of the most common theories as to why players experience these setbacks are generally due to pre-disposition, overcompensation and an over-ambitious goal for recovery.

With any injury type, there are obvious physical factors at play. However, a vital and under-explored aspect of the recovery process could be blocking these players’ recovery process.

The Mind-Body Factor

The mind and body are inextricably linked. A person cannot entertain a thought or emotion and, without effect, a chain-reaction in the body occurring. The same can be said for athletes that re-experience past traumatic injury by way of memory.

As humans, we tend to push overwhelming memories, such as traumatic injury, to the far reaches of our subconscious mind. This can be a problem, as these unresolved thoughts, emotions, feelings and psycho-somatic pain can get lodged within a player’s muscle memory.

When this happens, severe compensation, fear of injury and guarding patterns can arise in the body, which can have the effect of weakening the point of injury. This consequently causes structural weakness in other parts of the body. Rose and Cousins could be prime examples of this.

Subconscious mental and emotional blocks such as these, if left unaddressed, can create a nasty psycho-somatic injury loop, consequentially making players susceptible to further injury. Leaving imbalances unresolved at the unconscious level can jeopardize the physical health and well-being of an athlete. Finding a way to break this loop is paramount.

Mental And Emotional Blocks

The psycho-somatic memory of rupturing an Achilles or tearing an ACL can easily stay locked up within the deep mind or muscle memory of a player for years until fully processed.

In Rose’s case, his first major injury and psycho-somatic impediment may have occurred when he tore his ACL during the 2012-2013 season. Dr. Michael Casale, speaking about Rose, said:

“His injury must have caused so much mental trauma. The neuroscience part of me comes out and starts to think about, as far as the brain rewiring, it must be so unbelievably impactful to have that one moment change the way you think about yourself and your environment.”

Considering his past injury history – and the fact that some like Dr. Casale within the medical community believe that Rose’s injury may have caused psychological damage – it is not a stretch to think there has been a very real psycho-somatic element at play.

In Cousins’ case, he has sustained two major leg injuries in a relatively short period. It is generally challenging for big men with severe lower leg injuries to return to the court better than when they left it. Cousins could have his work cut out for him.

If Cousins or Rose are still carrying the deep mental and emotional discord from their past injuries, the chronic injury patterns that they have already experienced could likely persist.

Directly addressing unresolved psycho-somatic barriers with leading-edge High-Performance Mindfulness systems could help players like Rose and Cousins break the habitual injury loop that they have experienced.

The Missing Link – Streamlining The Injury Recovery Process

So what might be the next correct step in streamlining recovery?

High-Performance Mindfulness – Energy Psychology Programs that zero in on removing the mental and emotional baggage from past injuries, exactly what Cousins and Rose could require.

High-Performance Mindfulness can now identify which unconscious mental blocks are holding a player back wherein the subconscious mind-body they are being held. Through a systematic approach for removing and neutralize these impediments, players have been shown to physically improve once the emotional discord of the past experiences has been neutralized.

Frequently, the option of last resort, techniques such as these often have the effect of improving range of motion, eliminating fears of re-injury and eliminating those nasty guarding patterns.

Moreover, employing tools that interface directly with the subconscious mind have been shown to restore confidence, trust and rhythm for a player in regards to his or her own body.

For players like Cousins and Rose, there may be nothing more vital at this stage in their careers.

Getting to the root of these chronic injury patterns may be the key for Cousins, Rose and players like them challenged with similar injury patterns for unlocking, healing and preventing future injury.

Addressing the deeply held negatively charged thoughts, images, emotions and somatic feelings could be the way for doing so – and could be a game-changer for players coming back from injury.

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Could Team USA’s Success Create More Future NBA Partnerships?

Past U.S. National Teams have foreshadowed future player movement. What possibilities could come from the 2019 FIBA World Cup roster? Douglas Farmer writes.

Douglas Farmer

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Since 2008’s “Redeem Team,” two themes have applied to every iteration of the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team.

They are stocked with the current cream of the crop, and they lay a groundwork for future partnerships or rumored partnerships.

Injuries, workload management and personal decisions have invalidated the first of those themes as the U.S. prepares for the FIBA World Cup in two weeks, but the bonds made in China could still influence the NBA in years to come, just as such friendships led to the 2010-14 Miami Heat, the 2016-19 Kevin Durant-included Golden State Warriors and the brand new Brooklyn Nets.

LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were all a part of that 2008 Gold Medal team. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson first got to know Durant up close and personal while winning gold in Brazil. Kyrie Irving and Durant played together then as well, and that goes without mentioning DeAndre Jordan. Let’s not forget that Irving also played with Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis in 2016, two others he has been linked with the last few seasons.

So what partnerships could come from the current team? Three possibilities stick out.

The 2022 Restricted Free Agents

Four members of Gregg Popovich’s U.S. roster will reach restricted free agency after the 2022 season. For Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White, they may have the option to survey their options and force their current organizations’ respective hands, but Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell will almost assuredly sign five-year deals where they are now.

That will set up Tatum and Mitchell – and perhaps Kuzma and/or White – to reach unrestricted free agency simultaneously in 2027. Is it absurd to look eight years ahead? Perhaps, but in the current climate of player empowerment, those timelines can become truncated in unexpected ways. For now, using the 2027 offseason simply creates a predictable point of reference.

Tatum will be entering his age-29 season and Mitchell his age-31 season. If either or both has not yet won a title — by 2027 or, as alluded to, when forcing a franchise’s decisions even earlier — the competitive clock will be ticking at a rapid pace.

To put it bluntly, the Tatum-Mitchell duo could fit very well. For that matter, there is no genuine overlap even when considering Kuzma and White.

Though his 2018-19 was a slight step backward in many respects, Tatum remains a solid shooter and one that should only improve. Perhaps he is not quite the 43.4 percent three-point shooter that he was as a rookie, but he is also better than last season’s 37.3 percent. As his body continues to mature, his rebounding rate should continue to rise, already up to 6.0 from 5.0 in just two years.

Mitchell, meanwhile, improved his shooting from deep to 36.2 percent from 34 percent in his first two seasons and raised his assist-to-turnover rate to 1.48 from 1.35. On the surface, those may seem like incremental betterings, but considering Mitchell’s usage rate also jumped to 31.7 from 29.2, their impacts were crucial pieces of Utah finishing fifth in the West.

A pick-and-roll between the two of them would put any defense in a compromising position. Either could drive to the rim, either could crash for a lob, either could pop out for a three. Neither lags off the dribble or in a catch-and-shoot situation. And each comports himself well defensively, a trait that will presumably only strengthen with age.

Tatum and Mitchell would make for a solid combination, a rapport to be looked for when the U.S. faces the Czech Republic on Sept. 1.

Of course, if either appears to be fitting with Kuzma or White better than expected, one or the other could eventually lean on his current franchise to tender a better offer than the Lakers or Spurs are likely to match.

2020 Role Players on the Market

On this U.S. roster, only Nuggets forward Mason Plumlee and Nets guard Joe Harris will be free agents next summer. Neither will command massive contracts, though both would be leaving teams with distinct championship aspirations if they shopped around. There are, however, two contingents of players headed to China with equal title hopes who could begin sales pitches.

Tatum is just one of four Celtics on the roster, making them the loudest group. They could see Plumlee and recognize size not much abundant on their team in Boston. With Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and Tatum, they have reasonable shooting, but finding a way to bang with the lengthy 76ers will undoubtedly be on Celtics president Danny Ainge’s to-do list.

Bucks guard Khris Middleton and big man Brook Lopez are the only other pair of NBA teammates representing the U.S., and in Harris they should see the ideal sharpshooter to stash around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

That version of player recruitment may not have the same headline value as the Gold Medal-winning efforts of the last decade, but that is appropriate for a roster devoid of MVP candidates. It could be the key to a title all the same.

Be it Harris to the Bucks, Plumlee to the Celtics or a Tatum-Mitchell partnership years from becoming a reality, such team-building could shape a postseason just as James-Wade-Bosh and Durant to the Warriors did, all spurred by time on a national team roster.

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NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Toronto Raptors

Shane Rhodes examines the double-edged sword of the Toronto Raptors’ championship season and the loss of a franchise superstar.

Shane Rhodes

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The NBA is a fickle beast, success a fleeting one.

And, right now, no one may know that better than the Toronto Raptors.

After the first title in their team’s history, the Raptors are left without Kawhi Leonard, the former Spur, Raptor and now Clipper that carried the franchise to its greatest heights. Toronto and Masai Ujiri’s gamble from a year ago was worth it – with Leonard in place of DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors reached the pinnacle of the basketball world – but it has left the franchise ill-equipped to retain their heightened status.

Of course, and although he was a significant part of it, there was more to their team than Leonard. That being said, success could stay in the cards for the Raptors, if not to a lesser extent, next season.

But the shoes Leonard vacated were quite large. Ujiri and Co. did what they could to fill them, but it can be hard, nigh impossible, to replace a superstar. Did they do enough to keep the team at the top of the Eastern Conference or, at the very least, earn a passing grade?

Overview

The Raptors season was an interesting one.

After the DeRozan-Leonard blockbuster rocked the whole of the NBA, Toronto was projected to be one of the best in the Association. It didn’t quite go as planned, but the Raptors indeed found themselves near the top of the NBA ladder, second only to the Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) in terms of their record (58-24).

Toronto was mocked early on for their “load management” approach, but it’s hard to argue with the results: Leonard looked like himself rather than the hobbled doppelganger we saw in his last season with San Antonio.

Once again at the peak of his powers, Leonard elevated the play of everyone around him and made the Raptors true title contenders. When the postseason came around, Toronto – after a brief slip against the Orlando Magic – rolled through the first round.

In the second, they clashed in a back-and-forth seven-game series with the Philadelphia 76ers, which ended with a signature moment from Leonard.

From there, they went toe-to-toe with eventual Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors didn’t flinch.

And, finally, they were face to face with the beast that has stalked the collective nightmares of the NBA over the last five seasons: the Golden State Warriors.

The Raptors were built for this moment: to take on (and topple) a giant. In trading DeRozan, the team had stripped themselves of what their franchise was – its former face. It was cold, but it was also calculated and methodical. Everything had led up to this moment for Toronto, and there was nothing that they were going to let stop them.

And nothing did.

Toronto was a team of destiny. There was an air about them, a sense of magic and an essence that can’t be coached from the whiteboard or broken down in the film room. They took the Warriors to their limit and beat them. And, injuries aside, nothing can take that away from the Raptors franchise, their fans and the city of Toronto.

Offseason

Unfortunately, this is Basketball Insiders’ “Grading the Offseason” series and, while what the Raptors achieved during the regular and postseason is great, it doesn’t factor into what they have done since they brought the Larry O’Brien trophy to Toronto.

The Raptors had hoped a title could lure Leonard back to the frozen North. In the end, not even that was enough to keep Leonard from Los Angeles but, if given the choice, Toronto would almost certainly trade for him again – the proverbial “window” can close so quickly and the team had to seize their opportunity while there still was one.

6-foot-7 superstar forwards don’t grow on trees, however. Leonard’s departure left a superstar-sized hole on the roster and he wouldn’t be easily replaced.

Toronto went into the 2019 NBA Draft with just a second-round pick, its first owed to San Antonio as part of the deal for Leonard. With that, the team took Dewan Hernandez, a forward out of the University of Miami.

They retained Patrick McCaw, a wing, signed Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Devin Robinson, all forwards.

Sensing a theme?

The Raptors, rather than trying to find one player, opted to replace Leonard with a committee. None of those players inspire much confidence, but bringing in a versatile group like that is at least a start.

From there, Toronto filled out the rest of the roster: with Danny Green, another integral piece, gone to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Raptors added Cameron Payne and Matt Thomas to serve as depth behind Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell.

Short of something completely out-of-the-blue, ala the Leonard-DeRozan swap this time last year, there is little else the Raptors could do to improve their next-season outlook. After the flurry that was the start of free agency, there just isn’t much impact talent left out there.

On a lighter note, the Raptors didn’t lose much of anything outside of Leonard and Green that wasn’t addressed in those signings. Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd, Jodie Meeks and Eric Moreland were the other Raptors that walked into free agency.

Those players haven’t exactly knocked down the doors anywhere else. The Raptors, at the very least, should get similar production from their new guys.

PLAYERS IN: Terence Davis, Dewan Hernandez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Cameron Payne, Matt Thomas, Devin Robinson (Exhibit 10), Sagaba Konate (Exhibit 10), Oshae Brissett (Exhibit 10)

PLAYERS OUT: Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd, Jodie Meeks, Eric Moreland

What’s Next? 

Short of retaining Leonard, it was almost guaranteed to be a “bad” offseason for the Raptors, and their grade has reflected that.

Their roster is talented, but Toronto is built to house a superstar, not compete without one. Hollis-Jefferson, Johnson, Payne and the others could have proven perfect additions to a title contender but, to the Raptors, they serve as no more than mediocre depth, either journeymen or hopeful reclamation projects.

In an extremely top-heavy East, Toronto should have no problem floating somewhere in the middle-of-the-pack (if not near the top of the conference). But that “good-not-great” gray-area isn’t the goal for any squad, certainly not the defending champions.

Now, it is the NBA, and anything can happen in this league. Should another disgruntled opportunity ala Leonard present itself, and should the Raptors jump on it, that could all change.

But right now, the odds of that happening seem slim.

In Leonard’s departure, Toronto was dealt an unwinnable hand. Unfortunately, there is no sympathy in grading.

OFFSEASON GRADE: D

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