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NBA

NBA Finals 2019: How the Toronto Raptors' championship roster was assembled

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Raptors 2019 NBA Champions [NBA Getty Images]

The Toronto Raptors have defeated the Golden State Warriors to earn their first NBA title in franchise history!

The Raptors knocked off the reigning champs in six games, with the championship-deciding victory coming in the last game at Oracle Arena. Toronto didn't need a massive free agency signing or a team full of All-Stars, just a gutsy trade that paid off and the right move at the trade deadline around an already talented roster that was ready for the moment.

Take a look at how this historic Raptors roster came to be.

Kawhi Leonard

Who would've guessed that Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals back in 2017 would change the Raptors' franchise forever?

Leonard was on a tear with 26 points through 24 minutes of play, giving his San Antonio Spurs a 23-point lead minutes into the second half. Leonard pulled up for a 3-point attempt and landed awkwardly as Zaza Pachulia closed out on him, forcing the star forward to miss the remainder of the game and the series.

The Spurs were swept by Golden State and a series of injuries would change Leonard's future forever.

Leonard played in just nine games the following season due to a quadriceps injury, never seeing eye-to-eye with San Antonio's training staff. In the 2018 offseason, the Spurs sent Leonard, along with Danny Green and cash, to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first round draft pick.

The trade sat uneasy among Raptors fans at the time, seeing their loyal franchise player traded away overnight after leading the team to their best regular season win total.

Fast forward 11 months later and that trade will go down as the single-best move in the history of the Raptors, as Leonard put on a historic performance to lead the franchise to their first-ever NBA title, earning Finals MVP in the process.

Leonard's free agency decision lingers, but whether he stays or goes, he'll forever have a place in the heart of the city of Toronto and the country of Canada as a whole.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry has been a part of the Raptors core since 2012 - seven seasons of hard work and dedication that has finally paid off in a championship.

Though it might seem at this point that Lowry has been a Raptor his entire career, that's not the case. In 2012, the Houston Rockets traded Lowry to the Raptors for Gary Forbes, who played only two seasons in the NBA, and a 2013 first round pick, which the Rockets later selected Steven Adams.

The trade worked out well for both teams, as the Rockets used Adams as a key trade piece to get James Harden and the Raptors ended up with their franchise point guard who's had several successful seasons, including five consecutive All-Star appearances, an All-NBA honour and now an NBA title.

Pascal Siakam

"When I saw Pascal in Basketball Without Borders [in 2012], I couldn't even tell you if he was an NBA player. That's how incredible his story is," Raptors president Masai Ujiri told ESPN's Jackie MacMullen in a feature story on Siakam back in December.

Siakam's journey is, as Ujiri said, incredible - from training to become a priest in his home country of Cameroon to a key player and breakout star for a team pursuing its first-ever NBA title despite only playing the sport competitively for about eight years.

He's likely to be named the NBA's Most Improved Player this season and he's established himself as one of the most promising young players in the league today.

The Raptors drafted Siakam with the 27th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. After leading Toronto's G League affiliate Raptors 905 to a championship and earning Finals MVP in 2016-17, he got his chance to prove himself in the NBA in 2017-18.

How differently could this have developed for the Raptors? There were several forwards drafted around that No. 27 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft - Brice Johnson was taken at 25, Furkan Korkmaz was taken at 26 and Skal Labissiere was selected at 28.

I think Toronto is happy with the decision they made.

Danny Green

At what point do we start debating Green as the best "throw-in" in trade history?

The Raptors getting Green in the DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade went under the radar at first. Toronto was somehow able to land a former Finals MVP and a player who had solidified himself as a high-quality role player with championship experience without having to give up promising young pieces like OG Anunoby or Siakam.

Green was great for the Raptors all season - he shot his highest 3-point percentage of his career and nearly made an All-Defensive team. Even though he had his ups-and-downs in the postseason, his Game 3 outburst alone makes up for the other bad games.

The addition of Green was vital to the Raptors' success in pursuing the championship.

Fred VanVleet

VanVleet has been a diamond in the rough-type find for the Raptors.

Despite multiple conference Player of the Year awards and even being listed as a late-season finalist for college basketball's Player of the Year honour twice, VanVleet still went undrafted in 2016.

His Draft Express profile painted the picture of an impact player in the NBA, yet no team was willing to select him. He was a winner in college - the winningest player in Wichita State program history - and proved to be a high-IQ point guard who works hard on defence and can knock down open shots.

The Raptors must have seen that in him when they signed VanVleet, and the rest is history. He spent his first season in-and-out of the G League but last year, in his first season receiving a significant opportunity with the Raptors, he was a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year.

This season, he was a key contributor off the bench and played a huge role in trying to disrupt Stephen Curry's rhythm in the Finals. His scoring outbursts throughout the playoffs gave the second unit hope, and he was the best guard on the floor for the last 12 minutes of the Raptors' close out Game 6 victory to win the title.

Toronto struck gold with this guy.

Serge Ibaka

Ibaka has been a veteran leader for the Raptors ever since they acquired him back at the 2017 trade deadline.

Toronto traded Terrence Ross and a 2017 first round pick to the Orlando Magic for Ibaka. The Magic selected Anzejs Pasecniks with that first round pick, so I'll let you be the judge of who won that deal.

Ibaka was the perfect role player off the bench in the back end of the Raptors' playoff run, putting together big performances in the Eastern Conference Finals and a few huge games, both offensively and defensively, in the Finals.

His willingness to move to the bench after the Raptors traded for Marc Gasol at the deadline cannot be stressed enough in the selflessness of doing what's best for the team.

Trading for Ibaka back in 2017 turned out great for Toronto in the long run.

Marc Gasol

Gasol was the final piece the Raptors needed to complete the make-up of what became a championship roster.

Toronto acquired Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline, moving Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and CJ Miles to get the veteran big man. Without Gasol, it's tough to say the Raptors would have definitely been where they ended up - his defence on Joel Embiid in the Conference Semifinals was key and the way he anchored the Raptors all postseason was remarkable.

And the trade almost didn't happen. The Grizzlies were just about ready to send Gasol to the Charlotte Hornets - a deal that was so close to being done that the veteran centre was forced to sit out while Memphis and Charlotte worked out the trade terms.

Luckily for the Raptors, the trade between the Grizzlies and Hornets fell through. Toronto ended up with the defensive-minded and savvy passing centre - the last piece of the puzzle to take this team to the next level.

OG Anunoby

Anunoby was absent for the majority of the Raptors' season battling injuries, but he's still a very important piece to this team's make-up and more importantly, the team's future.

The Raptors selected Anunoby with the 23rd overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Other forwards that were drafted around that pick: Harry Giles at 20, Terrence Ferguson at 21, Tyler Lydon at 24 and Kyle Kuzma at 27.

So while Kuzma would've been a hit, I would think the Raptors are more than pleased with the player they ended up with.

Norman Powell

Powell was drafted by the Bucks in 2015.

In 2015, the Raptors traded Greivis Vasquez to Milwaukee for Powell and a 2017 first round pick - the pick they ended up selecting Anunoby with.

This move certainly worked out in the long term for the Raptors, as Powell provided a couple of great games off the bench throughout the postseason.

Jeremy Lin

From couch surfing in different cities trying to make it in the league, to "Linsanity," to establishing himself as a solid player in the NBA, Lin will earn a piece of hardware to symbolize his hard work over the years.

The Atlanta Hawks waived Lin and once he cleared waivers, the Raptors jumped on the opportunity to sign the veteran point guard. Lin may not have had the biggest on-court impact for this Raptors team, but it's easy to believe his spirit and demeanor helped shape this championship roster.

Patrick McCaw

After winning two titles with the Warriors, McCaw pitched a hold out for a better contract with the defending champs.

When the Warriors wouldn't meet his terms, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up the young guard. McCaw played three games with the Cavs then was waived, and the Raptors stepped in and signed him.

Despite hardly playing throughout the playoffs, McCaw knocked down a back-breaking 3-pointer in Game 1 of the Finals, paying his dues on his way to his third NBA title in three seasons.

Jodie Meeks

The Raptors scooped up the veteran shooting guard on a 10-day contract in February and extended that deal through the end of the season when his 10 days were up.

Eric Moreland

Moreland played with the Raptors in the preseason but was waived prior to the start of the regular season. He signed with the Phoenix Suns but was waived, and the Raptors picked him up on a 10-day contract.

Once the 10 days were up, they used their final roster spot to keep Moreland for the remainder of the season.

Malcolm Miller

Miller signed a two-way contract with the Raptors in 2017 and has been with the organization in some capacity since - bouncing back and forth from their G League and NBA team.

Chris Boucher

Boucher was waived by the Warriors this past offseason and the Raptors gave the Canadian a shot. Boucher earned a spot on the roster, signing a two-way contract in October, and has been along for the ride throughout the entire season, playing for both the G League affiliate and the NBA squad.

Jordan Loyd

Loyd signed a two-way contract with the Raptors this past August and, like Boucher, was competing for both the G League affiliate and the NBA team throughout the entire season.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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