Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA preseason game against Melbourne United at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, Oct. 5, 2018. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers went all-in this season, dealing just about all of their assets for both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris before February's trade deadline. Adding two borderline All-Stars to a starting lineup that already included Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick pushed the team to the No.3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a chance to make a deep run in the 2019 NBA playoffs.

The only problem is a better team stands in their way. The Toronto Raptors are favored over Philadelphia in the conference semifinals, and the 76ers are probably staring at a second-round exit for a second straight year.

Only the Milwaukee Bucks had a better regular season than Toronto. The Raptors won 58 games, putting them ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the overall NBA standings. They excelled on both ends of the floor, ranking fifth in both offensive and defensive rating.

It's not as easy to evaluate Philadelphia because only a small sample size exists for this current unit. Even in the second half of the season when Harris and Butler were both on the team, Embiid missed most of the 76ers’ games with a knee injury.

That injury continues to linger, and it could greatly affect Philadelphia's chances of pulling off the upset.

Embiid was terrific in helping close out the Brooklyn Nets in five games last round. He averaged 27 points, 14.5 rebounds and three blocks over the final two contests. The center struggled in Game 1, and the knee injury was bad enough that he had to sit out Game 3. That probably means the ailment is going to linger throughout the series with Toronto.

Philadelphia can't beat Toronto four times unless Embiid is close to being the best player in the series. It might be a safe bet to say Kawhi Leonard will hold that title in the upcoming matchup, considering Embiid’s health and Leonard's playoff resume.

Five years ago, Leonard won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP award. Two years ago, Leonard was so good in the playoffs that some believed he might be reaching LeBron James’ level. Despite missing 14 of 19 shots in one contest, Leonard ended Toronto's five-game series victory over the Orlando Magic with averages of 27.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 56.6 percent from the field.

It might be Leonard's defense that will be most important against Philadelphia. He's arguably still the best wing defender in the NBA, and he's going to be a problem for Ben Simmons.

The Raptors beat the 76ers three out of four times in the regular season. Harris wasn't on Philadelphia yet for any of those games, but it might not have mattered since each Toronto victory came by double digits. The Raptors’ average margin of victory was 13 points.

A major part of those wins was Leonard's defense on Simmons. The point guard totaled 19 points and 18 turnovers in Philadelphia's first two losses to Toronto.

Simmons’ complete inability to make jump shots was exposed in last year's second-round when Philadelphia was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in five games. He was held to just a single point in one of those losses and didn't come very close to recording any triple-doubles.

Against teams like the Nets, Simmons is able to have dominant performances. Elite defenses like that of the Raptors will neutralize him and even force him to become a liability down the stretch of some games.

While the 76ers have a starting lineup filled with players that can score, the Raptors have a roster filled with above-average defenders. Maybe Marc Gasol won’t be able to shut down Embiid if he's on top of his game, but he'll do a much better job than what Jarett Allen attempted to do last round. Pascal Siakam is a really good defensive player, never mind the fact that his offense might be catching up after he averaged 22.6 points per game against the Magic.

Kyle Lowry and Danny Green give the Raptors a formidable backcourt on both ends of the floor. The ability to play Leonard, Gasol, Siakam and Serge Ibaka in the frontcourt gives head coach Nick Nurse several options when it comes to lineups.

LeBron James has been responsible for Toronto's recent early-round playoff exits. DeMar DeRozan came up small in big moments as the Raptors put together a stretch of postseason disappointments.

With James gone from the East and Leonard replacing DeRozan, Toronto has a clear path to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Series Prediction: Toronto in five