How to drop your best player and win a title

(Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

When the Washington Nationals didn’t re-sign their superstar Bryce Harper, they were projected to fail. Instead, they upset the Houston Astros, the baseball team with the top record of 107-55, to win their first World Series.

How did the Nationals drop their best player and become a champion? Can the Toronto Raptors do the same after losing Kawhi Leonard, who was credited with much of their success last season?

Nationals do more with less

From 2012 to 2018, the Nationals were led by Bryce Harper and dominated the regular season, winning their division in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. In the playoffs however, they failed to get past the first round every time.

This season, they snuck in the playoffs as the wild card team with a 93-69 record and upset the 106-56 Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round and went on to win the World Series.

The biggest reason the Nationals improved was because they dropped Harper, but this isn’t because of effort or leadership. It’s because in baseball, you need a good team — not a good player.

One player can’t carry a team. You need depth from hitting, to the bullpen.

Instead of giving a contract of $300 million to just one player, Washington spread the wealth. The money signed pitching depth like Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Both added depth to a struggling pitching staff.

The team also compensated Harper’s absence with young talent. Juan Soto was a worthy replacement for the bat and glove at just 20 years old.

With a mix of a strong starting pitching, a solid hitting core and a little luck, Washington won their first World Series.

No Kawhi, no problem

Last season, the Toronto Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard and upset the Golden State Warriors, a team who won three titles since 2015, for their first-ever NBA championship. Now, Leonard has gone to his home city to play for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Can the Raptors succeed without their Finals MVP?

Yes, I believe they can.

Despite losing Leonard, their main core in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are back. The defending champs also have a solid young core. Fred VanVleet provides lots of scoring and OG Anunoby is stellar on the defensive end.

The biggest factor is Pascal Siakam. Right now, Siakam is averaging 26 points and nine rebounds per game and looks like an all-star lock.

Toronto is 8-4 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Toronto can finish with a top record and could reach the conference finals. The Raptors will still be a formidable playoff team.

With Lowry aging, Toronto needs a co-star for Siakam to put them over the top. Leonard turned them from a solid team to champions and they have the potential to continue to be champions.

Stats are accurate to the date and time of publication, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.