Kawhi Leonard has been healthy for seven NBA seasons. For the first six, played in San Antonio, his teams have averaged 60.8 wins, with no fewer than 55 wins in any season.
He is a consummate winner, and while playing for in San Antonio with future Hall of Famers and a Hall of Fame coach helped, when Leonard was injured last season the Spurs won just 47 games, and have started this season 11-12.
Leonard, meanwhile, is flourishing in Toronto. His Raptors are right again on that ridiculous pace, beginning the season 20-5 (a 66-win pace) with the best record in the NBA. Leonard is once again winning, and winning big. And no one should be surprised. When healthy, which he is now, he’s a top-5 player in basketball.
Raptors Betting Odds Shorten
Oddsmakers have taken notice. There were two unknowns in Toronto this offseason: How would new head coach Nick Nurse mesh with his team? And was Leonard healthy after nine injury-plagued games? Both those unknowns are now very clear: Nurse is a very good coach, and Leonard is all the way back.
Before last week’s game against Golden State, Warriors guard Klay Thompson said the matchup might be a preview of June, referencing the NBA Finals. Oddsmakers agree. 888Sport has Warriors-Raptors as the most likely NBA Finals betting matchup in June at +275. The thinking is obvious: Golden State should be fully healthy come playoff time, and no team in the league has the postseason experience they do.
And Toronto looks to be on the fast track toward the top seed in the East. Of course LeBron James is no longer there to spoil the party in May, leaving the door open for Toronto to win the East for the first time in franchise history.
Oh, and the Raptors won that game last week, part of an eight-game win streak. This team matches up incredibly well with the Warriors, and their NBA betting title odds have mirrored that. Their odds were cut down to +1700 after the Leonard deal was finalized, and it’s now dwindled down to +900. They’re for real. How are they doing this?
Leonard A Value Bet for Defensive Player of the Year
Last week Kevin Durant dropped 51 points in the overtime loss to the Raptors. That wouldn’t exactly scream Defensive Player of the Year, but consider how hard Leonard made Durant work for his points.
Durant is in another zone right now, and he even admitted after the game that “the defense (from Leonard) did matter” but “you have to use more energy just to beat (Leonard).” The Raptors are ranked eighth in defensive efficiency and Leonard is a big reason why.
He’s won this award twice and there’s a reason he has the third best odds to win it again at +500.
Kyle Lowry Racking Up Assists
With DeMar DeRozan -- at times a black hole in the Raptors offense -- out of the picture, Kyle Lowry has had the ball in his hands more and produced serious numbers. He currently leads the league with 10.3 assists per game.
He’s actually the only player in the NBA averaging double-digit assists, and has a pretty sizeable advantage on second place (Jrue Holiday, 8.8) which is why he has excellent odds to lead the league in the category at -200 on 888Sport and SugarHouse.
Pascal Siakam a Good Bet for Most Improved Player
Who? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard about one of the NBA’s most improved players. But he’s trending toward becoming a household name with the numbers he’s putting up in his third season. Siakam, a first-round pick in 2016, is averaging 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 29.9 minutes.
He leads the league in two-point field-goal percentage and has played his way into a significant role with the best team in the East. He had his coming out party last week in a win over the Warriors, tallying a career-high 26 points on 8 of 10 shooting.
He’s here to stay. His +500 odds to win Most Improved Player continue to look better by the day.