Golden State Warriors

New Coach, New Star: The Raptors Made All the Right Moves

OAKLAND, Calif. — For six games, Fred VanVleet was tasked with the most difficult defensive assignment of his life: Attach himself to one of the N.B.A.’s greatest scorers as the Toronto Raptors pursued a piece of history.

In fairness, the Raptors did have one glam star: Kawhi Leonard, the long-limbed forward who was named the finals’ most valuable player after averaging 28.5 points and 9.8 rebounds against the Warriors.

In each of the past three seasons, they were knocked out of the playoffs by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, and his departure for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer created an opportunity that Toronto was eager to seize.

But that opportunity only took shape thanks to years of calculated risks and personnel changes orchestrated by Masai Ujiri, the team’s president of basketball operations — a zillion zigzags that ultimately led the Raptors to the very top.

Marc Gasol, acquired in a midseason trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, video chatted on his cellphone with his former teammate Mike Conley while pounding a can of Budweiser.

And Danny Green, the veteran guard, was congratulated outside the locker room by Vince Carter, the 42-year-old swingman who, once upon a time, was the face of the Raptors when respectability was an achievement.

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