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Giannis ready to take LeBron's throne as resident Raptors playoff nightmare

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15.05.2019

MILWAUKEE — So much of the optimism around the Toronto Raptors this season centred around two factors — one an arrival, the other a departure.

The Raptors have Kawhi Leonard, the best player the franchise has ever had, having been acquired from San Antonio. That alone was reason for hope.

Just as promising was LeBron James leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency — the King of the East, who had taken his teams to eight straight Eastern Conference titles and led the Cavs to 10 consecutive post-season wins over the Raptors — was gone.

The throne was empty.

But timing is everything. And with the Eastern Conference Finals set to begin in Milwaukee Wednesday night the Raptors may quickly find out that the void created by the departure of the veteran James may have been already been filled by someone bigger, younger, hungrier and — if it’s possible — even more athletic.

Having looked up to one of the most gifted athletes to have ever picked up a basketball, they now might find themselves witnesses to the emergence of a specimen even more talented, with the drive and basketball acumen to match.

If the Raptors couldn’t handle a 30-something James while getting pushed aside by the Cavaliers in three consecutive post-seasons, now they get to find out what they can do against a 24-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks superstar poised to earn his first NBA MVP award and the engine that has driven Milwaukee’s No. 1-ranked defence, third-best offence and delivered the league’s best overall record.

He’s a shade under seven-feet tall, weighs 242 pounds, having added more than 40 pounds of muscle since he was drafted 15th........

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