The Kawhi pitch: Toronto’s best case to keep its superstar free agent

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He’s not uncommunicative, but he is quite literal. When he was asked after the Raptors’ Game 2 blowout road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, “Where do you go from here?” Leonard replied, “To Toronto for Game 3.” This isn’t a player interested in disseminating messages in the media to convey his feelings or leverage his power.

For NBA teams, trafficking in superstars is a two-part process — acquisition, then retention — and it’s that latter stage that presents the greatest challenge. Any front office with the requisite assets can trade for a superstar, but only one skilled at the art of persuasion can keep him. Tied 1-1 with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals (Game 3, 9 p.m. ET on ABC), the Raptors will soon shift their attention to the retention project they’ve been planning for nearly a year — signing Leonard to a long-term contract in free agency to remain in Toronto.

How do you sell someone not easily sold? How do you sculpt a pitch about external factors when the target of that pitch is someone so internally focused? What can you really offer that other leading NBA organizations can’t? How can the Raptors compensate for their geographic disadvantage to a team like the LA Clippers in recruiting a Southern Californian whose preference for temperate climes is well-known?nike nfl jerseys for cheap

The Raptors executed the trade last summer with the belief that, when it came time to make their sale to Leonard, they’d be a strong incumbent with a track record of competence and achievement. This is the case Toronto can make to Leonard with confidence.8

We have veteran players who still have productive seasons ahead, and young players who are only going to get better, including Pascal Siakam, who is projected to walk away with the league’s Most Improved Player award in a landslide. We selected him with the 27th pick, just as we have overperformed with so many of our younger players: We stole Norman Powell from Milwaukee by sending out Greivis Vasquez, found OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick, and picked up off the scrap heap an undrafted Fred VanVleet, who has been crucial in helping you win the biggest games in Raptors franchise history.

We could tell you why we think Toronto is the greatest basketball city on the continent, how being the face of a truly national franchise is a privilege, but we also know that you might value the strengths of our market differently than others. We appreciate that peripherals aren’t as important to you, but we know that a professional workplace devoid of external noise is. And we present the events of the last 10 months as evidence that, in this respect, the Toronto Raptors are a perfect fit for Kawhi Leonard.

An NBA team with a pending free-agent superstar can be beset by intrigue and disruption, but despite the uncertainty about your future, our season together was devoid of high drama. That’s a testament both to your character and our commitment to doing things the right way: We didn’t succumb to distractions because, together, we simply wouldn’t allow it. If there’s an organization that has produced a more harmonious season of basketball in recent years with such uncertainty, we haven’t seen it. This wasn’t a fluke; we believe it is — and will be — a fundamental feature of the Toronto Raptors in a Kawhi Leonard Era.