Kawhi Leonard instantly transformed the Toronto Raptors into one of the must-watch teams this upcoming NBA season. On Friday, the league released the full schedule for the 2018-19 season, and surprisingly, the Raps will have 15 nationally televised games on ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV -- the most in 17 years.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports, the last time the Raptors had double-digit nationally televised games was during the 2001-02 season, when a high-flying youngster named Vince Carter caught the attention of the media. Toronto had 17 games on national TV that year -- two games more than their 2000-01 campaign.

Games to watch out for next season

All 15 nationally televised Raptors games are going to be tremendously entertaining. However, there are few that really stand out from the rest.

These games either present an emotional backdrop or rekindle rivalries with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto vs. Boston on October 19: This opening week game will be televised on ESPN, and there’s a huge reason why it’s scheduled on primetime TV. With LeBron James jumping to the west coast with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference is now in need of a new dynasty.

The trade that sent Leonard to the Raptors has made him the de facto King of the East for now, but the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving obviously wants to change that narrative by delivering a statement game against arguably the best two-way player in the game in the first of four head-to-head meetings.

Toronto vs.

Philadelphia on October 30: NBA TV will be covering this game, which happens to be the very first encounter between the Raps and the Sixers. Before Toronto took their chance on Leonard, Philadelphia was in serious trade talks with the Spurs for the forward. However, the Sixers eventually abandoned their pursuit since they couldn’t get a long-term commitment from Kawhi. This storyline will only add more fuel to the brewing Atlantic Division rivalry. Sixers big man Joel Embiid already promised an MVP-type season. He’s really after the NBA’s top individual prize, yet Kawhi is casting his shadow over the entire conference.

Toronto @ San Antonio on January 3 / Toronto vs.

San Antonio on February 22: It’s a pair of highly emotional homecoming games with Leonard visiting his former team in San Antonio (on TNT) and DeRozan returning to Air Canada (on ESPN) for the first time since the blockbuster trade. Nothing will be more fascinating than to see a familiar face wearing a different jersey, so expect the crowd to play a big factor in these games.

The Kawhi Effect

No doubt Leonard is the reason behind the Raptors’ return to the spotlight, as he single-handedly turned an often-ignored franchise into a certified TV darling.

This further justifies the decision of the front office to trade their long-time franchise centerpiece in DeRozan, an up-and-coming forward in Jakob Poeltl, and a future first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for a bona-fide superstar.

Now, whether or not Masai Ujiri’s gamble will pay off long-term for the Raptors presents an entirely different discussion. All the Raptors know at the moment is that they are reaping the rewards of having a top five superstar on their roster even before their campaign begins. In addition to their 15 nationally televised games, ticket sales are expected to break records in anticipation of Leonard’s debut season with the Raptors.

Business is good right now in Toronto, but will Kawhi continue to be a blessing up north beyond this season? Fans will find out next summer.