This article is part of our Season Review series.
Warriors (57-25), preseason over/under: 62.0
Though the Warriors couldn't reach their expected win total, Golden State still made it to the Finals for the fifth straight season. Despite the loss to Toronto – more on that later – this streak of Finals appearances is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
Fantasy owners got what they expected out of Kevin Durant – MVP-caliber stats. Durant appeared in 78 games, led the Warriors in minutes, and posted 26.0 PPG on 52.1 FG%, 6.4 RPG, 5.9 APG and 1.1 BLK. Thompson was also his usual self, also playing 78 games while finishing as a top-30 player.
Steph Curry dealt with injury and appeared in 69 games, limiting his fantasy upside. He was often drafted inside the top-5, but ended up as the ninth-ranked fantasy player. Still, the two-time MVP was as impressive as ever while on the court, finishing 8th in true-shooting percentage while posting 27.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.3 STL.
While DeMarcus Cousins didn't step foot on the court until mid-January, he provided great value for those who draft-and-stashed him. A popular pick after round 10, Cousins ended up ranking top-35 in terms of average performance. Across Cousins' 30 appearances, he recorded 16.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.6 APG and a combined 2.8 BLK/STL in 25.7 MPG.
Not just the Warriors, but the NBA and its fans, took two massive blows during the NBA Finals. Durant, amidst a controversial return from a calf injury, suffered a torn Achilles in Game 5. Then, during Game 6, Thompson tore his ACL while landing after a dunk attempt. It's very possible we don't see Durant, a free agent, at all during the upcoming 2019-20 campaign. Thompson's recovery timetable has been set at nine to 10 months, so he could be back as soon as February or March to assist Golden State with another playoff run.
Under the circumstances, I wouldn't consider the Warriors' Finals loss to the Raptors "bad". But, for a team we've seen be dominant for half a decade, it was still strange to see the Warriors get broken down in Oracle Arena and lose to the Raptors, who broke up their core for what may amount to a one-year rental of Kawhi Leonard.
State of the Franchise
Recent rumors have suggested the Warriors will offer both Durant and Thompson max contracts. Based on their contributions to the organization, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Thompson is essentially a guarantee to stay, while Durant felt gone before his injury. It's possible the Achilles rupture changes his perspective and what suitors are willing to offer him.
Concerning next season, Durant probably won't be on the court for any team, so it's a wash as far as the Warriors' potential goes. Thompson being out until around February will leave Golden State with just Steph Curry, Draymond Green and mid-to-low tier role players for the majority of the 2019-20 campaign. It seems doubtful that Cousins will return.
Early odds for next season via the Westgate sportsbook have the Warriors with the sixth-best odds to win the title, and PointsBet.com has Golden State finishing tied for sixth in the Western Conference standings with the Thunder. That's quite the change of pace for this dynasty.
Raptors (58-24, NBA Title), o/u: 55.5
Big moves paid off. Two franchise centerpieces were left behind, as 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey was fired in favor of Nick Nurse, and DeMar DeRozan was dealt to acquire Kawhi Leonard. Later on, once it was apparent the Raptors were legitimate contenders, Jonas Valanciunas was dealt in favor of Marc Gasol. Attitudes vary regarding the degree to which the aforementioned moves were gambles, but each carried enough risk to where we can't be certain of how many front offices would have actually pulled the triggers.
In fantasy drafts, Leonard was usually drafted somewhere between picks five and 15 depending on how risk-prone certain fantasy owners were. Leonard had a great season, but he played just 60 games largely due to rest, so he ended up being ranked in the mid-20s. He barely finished above Pascal Siakam, who could be crowned the Sleeper of the Year. Essentially a lock to win the NBA's Most Improved Player award, Siakam – a year removed from averaging 7.3 PPG in 20.7 MPG – posted 16.9 PPG on 54.9 FG%, 6.9 RPG, 3.1 assists and a combined 1.6 STL/BLK across 31.9 MPG.
Danny Green also had a resurgent year, often going undrafted but finishing as a top-75 player on the back of 198 made threes and a combined 126 steals/blocks. And despite losing his starting center spot to Gasol following the trade deadline, Serge Ibaka still finished above his ADP, claiming a spot as a top-70 player. Gasol himself finished top-40, which was also in line with his ADP.
Kawhi is a free agent, and he hasn't given any indication that he's intending to re-sign with Toronto. This could end up being an unprecedented one-season rental for an NBA title – something that might feel like a weird fever dream in the near future. The possibly impending rebuild is simply the price paid to contend for a championship. A rebuild centered around Siakam wouldn't be a bad way to kick things off, though.
On the fantasy front, things largely went as expected. I already touched on Leonard's load management, but I couldn't put him in the "bad" section considering he won Finals MVP and has vaulted himself back into the conversation for best player in the league. The only other player that could qualify for this section is Kyle Lowry. He appeared in just 65 games and finished outside of the top-40 despite often being drafted in the mid-20s.
State of the Franchise
Whether or not Kawhi stays, the magnitude of Toronto winning the title is immense – not only for the fans, but for the NBA. Two years ago, the Thunder traded for Paul George on an expiring contract, and he ended up staying in OKC. A year later, the Raptors made a deal for Leonard on an expiring contract and Toronto wins a title. Will other front offices be more comfortable taking an aggressive approach to these kinds of players when they're made available?
The range of outcomes for the Raptors 2019-20 season is substantial. It varies from a possible championship repeat to possibly fighting for a playoff berth. Lowry will be an expiring contract; Gasol has a player option. Maybe neither of them are on the team next year. But whatever happens in the near future, the Raptors can forever say they're the 2019 NBA Champions.