Kawhi Leonard is already a game-changer for the Toronto Raptors even before the 2018-19 NBA season officially starts. The Raps will have 15 games on US National TV this coming season, tying for second most in the franchise's history.

Leonard’s stature as a bona fide NBA superstar has made Raptors game appealing again to big US cable channels like ESPN and TNT. In fact, Toronto last had more than 10 nationally televised games during the 2001-02 NBA season, when high-flying forward Vince Carter was still their main draw.

The 2000-01 NBA season still owns the franchise’s record for the most number of games on national TV at 17 games.

Then again, it’s not that hard to recognize Leonard’s impact upon his arrival North of the Border. With his immense star power [VIDEO], people outside of Canada are going to watch more Raptors games now than they had these past few years.

Kawhi has made the Raptors a legit finals contender and a TV darling at the same time, a feat even Carter couldn’t accomplish during his time with the team. Now, that the NBA already released the full season schedule, it’s never too early to pick the five most important games for Kawhi ahead of his debut season with the Raptors.

These games either would present an emotional backdrop or pit him against other Eastern Conference superstars, who all couldn’t wait much longer to finally have a crack at East’s newest top man.

Toronto vs. Boston on October 19 on ESPN

Right after their season-opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct.17, the Raptors will play host to the Boston Celtics, who are expected to parade a fully healthy All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Many expect Boston to top the Eastern Conference this coming season after overachieving last year (Eastern Conference finals without Kyrie and Hayward) with a heavily depleted lineup.

As for Kawhi, this game presents him the opportunity to show that his Raptors can be a serious threat to the Celtics for conference superiority. He will be featured in several intriguing matchups in the wing position, particularly against Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Toronto vs. Philadelphia on October 30 on NBA TV

This Atlantic Division series is going to be really good this season. The Sixers and the Raptors have some rivalry going on for quite some time, and the addition of Leonard would add more flair to an already interesting matchup. Philadelphia will be bannered by reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and All-Star big-man Joel Embiid, who declared his intention of winning the NBA MVP this year.

Last summer, the Sixers made several attempts to snag Leonard from San Antonio, but failure to get a long-term commitment from the star forced them to abandon their pursuit.

The Raptors, on the other hand, made a gambit by trading DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick to the Spurs for the star who can opt-out of his contract next summer.

Expect Leonard to bring out his A-game every time he faces the Sixers. Kawhi doesn’t speak much, but there’s no doubt his competitive nature will be in full display especially against the team that made a run at him last summer.

Raptors @ Los Angeles Lakers on Nov.4

The Los Angeles Lakers were the top choice for Kawhi Leonard before his trade to the Raptors. Most insiders believe that is still the case, with Leonard basically playing on the final year of his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Lakers’ fans nonstop recruitment of Kawhi won’t be pleasing in the eyes of Raptors faithful, but that’s the consequence the team has to accept for gambling on a guy that already set his sight on the purple-and-gold franchise.

Watch out for Kawhi’s body language before, during and after the game. There could be signs that he really wants to be a Laker. On the other hand, a Raptors’ victory over LeBron and the Lakers might be the first step towards changing the star’s mind.

Raptors @ Golden State on December 12 on ESPN

They say if you want to be the best, you beat the best. And right now, there’s no better team than the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The Raptors are on a six-game losing streak against the Warriors. The last Raptors win over the champ happened four years ago before the Warriors dynasty even began.

A win over the Warriors on their home floor would be a huge statement for new-look Raptors. Kawhi, who has built a lofty reputation for his defense against superstars, will have a chance to prove that he’s still the best at defending Kevin Durant, arguably the best scorer in the game, after an injury-riddled season.

Raptors @ San Antonio on January 3 on TNT

Homecomings will always be emotional. Leonard’s tumultuous exit from San Antonio last summer makes him the city’s public enemy No.1 by default. Expect a ruckus crowd at the AT&T Center as they rain Kawhi with boos and jeers every time he touches the ball.

Also, his matchup with DeRozan is something to really watch out for. DeRozan’s ego took a big hit [VIDEO] upon learning he was traded for Leonard. He’s going to prove the Raptors he’s better than Kawhi by dropping big numbers against him. Don’t be surprised, if turns chippy during the game.

Last but definitely not the least, Leonard’s first face-to-face encounter with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will be magnified 10x. This isn’t any regular-season game, folks!