Since the end of the NBA Finals, Kawhi Leonard has headlined much of the NBA’s free agency and trade rumors. Even if he wasn’t the headline, where he ended up effected a lot of teams and their plans to acquire certain players.
Before LeBron signed with the Lakers, the Spurs had a lot of leverage on the Lakers and 76ers as they were looking at it as an opportunity to clinch signing LeBron. The Lakers ultimately made the correct decision and didn’t end up giving away their young assets for Kawhi and still were able to acquire James. Then, the Lakers were able to shut the door on the Spurs and tell them they will just wait for Leonard to come to free agency next summer without giving up their assets. The 76ers, however, lost all of their leverage and missed out on signing LeBron.
After LeBron signed, trade talks died down as it looked like the Spurs had missed their window of opportunity. However, early Wednesday morning, the Spurs were finally able to get rid of their disgruntled superstar.
The Raptors traded Demar DeRozan, Jakob, Poetl, and a top-20 protected first round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Looking at this trade, I can’t help but feel uneasy for both sides of the trade.
For the Raptors, they’ve just given away their best player, DeRozan, in his prime and on the books until 2021 for a one-year Kawhi rental. Let’s be honest, there’s no way Kawhi stays in Toronto. They have hardly any pieces to build around there and Toronto is not the market Kawhi wants to be in. Even if they go to the Finals, Kawhi already has his ring. He just wants to be in LA.
The Raptors were the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference last year for crying out loud. They have the ability to win games. If it weren’t for their entire team disappearing when they are within a mile of LeBron James, they probably would’ve had a shot at going to the Finals last year. Now, they’ve got a year of Kawhi Leonard, who will be unhappy and waiting for the summer to sign with the Lakers, and will be in limbo after he departs. Who knows, Leonard might not even play.
On the Spurs side of things, it’s a little more optimistic but still not great. Essentially, they’ve traded away their diva for Demar DeRozan and his 3-year max contract. They’ll be paying him around $27 million per year during that time. Frankly, this doesn’t help the Spurs much. At 28, DeRozan is a great scorer and an exceptional mid-range shooter. However, he’s probably on the decline of his career. In the West, DeRozan probably won’t even make the All-Star team. This will most likely put San Antonio barely squeaking into the playoffs or not even making it. They have a lot of older players and might be stuck in the middle for several years. Consequently, they won’t get very great draft picks either. The Spurs could’ve gotten younger players with higher ceilings in the bevy of trade offers they received before LeBron signed with the Lakers, but they clearly missed out on that opportunity.
My best guess is that both of these teams will regret this trade. As a Raptors or Spurs fan, I would feel uneasy about the future of my team. Fans can only hope DeRozan will exceed expectations in Popovich’s system and Kawhi will be convinced that Toronto is better than Los Angeles.