Normally the day after the MLB All-Star game is one of the slower sports days of the year but this was not the case this year however. Early Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that San Antonio Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard along with guard Danny Green would be heading north of the border to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Forward DeMar DeRozan, Center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first round pick.
This is the blockbuster move many teams have been waiting for since the report first surfaced that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. Both teams have been criticized for the return they each got, but it is important to examine both the good and bad in this trade.
Toronto Raptors receive: SF/PF Kawhi Leonard, SG Danny Green
The good: The Raptors were swept out of the playoffs the last two years at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously with James now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, the major roadblock for the Raptors has vanished. However, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers are on the rise, and Toronto was widely regarded as at best the third best team in the league before the trade.
Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri looked at his roster and saw the need for improvement, and he made it. With the Leonard acquisition, Toronto now becomes a more formidable opponent, able to roll out a starting five of O.G. Anunoby, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Leonard and Jonas Valanciunas/Fred VanVleet. The Raptors were also able to hold onto their good young players like Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. This trade looks to be good except…
The bad: Kawhi Leonard has already expressed that he has ‘no desire to play in Toronto’ per ESPN’s Chris Haynes. Toronto runs the risk of Leonard sitting out the whole season again, throwing a giant temper tantrum just so he can go to Los Angeles. Then there’s the other reason that the Raptors didn’t have to give up that much; Leonard wants no part of any team not located in Los Angeles.
The Raptors could have given up their cornerstone in DeRozan for a one year rental, who will bolt after the year. Then, the Raptors would be in full rebuild. The other bad part about it is DeRozan leaving. The last three players that were on a level of DeRozan’s in Toronto were Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, and Tracy McGrady. All three couldn’t wait to leave Toronto. DeRozan was actually invested in the team, and now the Raptors will probably lose Leonard and one of the few great players that liked Toronto.
San Antonio Spurs receive: SG/SF DeMar DeRozan, C Jakob Poeltl, 2019 first round pick
The good: The Spurs finally got rid of the headache of Kawhi Leonard. The model organization in basketball was surrounded by tons of drama the entire 2017-18 season, but now that is hopefully for the most part behind them. The Spurs receive a controlled, young, improving asset in DeRozan so they don’t have to rebuild in the final years of Gregg Popovich’s career. Popovich won 48 games without Leonard last year in the loaded Western Conference, so he can certainly improve upon that with a team built around DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The bad: Teams who trade away marquee players like Leonard almost never receive equal value in return. That is certainly the case here. GM R.C. Buford did the best he could, but Leonard is simply too good. He also depreciated his value a lot by saying that he didn’t want to play anywhere but LA. The Spurs also might have had a bit of vitriol when trading Leonard. They certainly didn’t want to trade him anywhere in the West, so they drove up the price among teams like the Lakers and the Clippers. By doing that however, they had to take a less than satisfying package in order to ship their stud to perhaps the farthest place away from LA there is in the NBA. The Spurs also have acquired a disgruntled player in DeRozan who doesn’t seem to be particularly enthused by suiting up in silver and black.
There are numerous pros and cons on both sides of this trade. It will probably take a couple of years for the full ramifications of this move to take effect. However, one thing is for sure; The upcoming NBA season just got a lot more interesting in the Eastern Conference.