The San Antonio Spurs have traded disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a top-20 protected first round pick. The pick converts to two 2020 second round picks if it somehow lands in the top-20 range.
This was a long-time coming. Leonard had wanted out of San Antonio after his relationship with the team soured while he was rehabilitating a lingering hamstring injury in 2017-18. He had voiced out his preference to be traded to a Los Angeles team, but the Spurs were playing the cards they had strategically and wanted to avoid sending the former defensive-player-of-the-year awardee to a Western Conference rival. By all accounts, Raptors president Masai Ujiri got Leonard on the cheap.
The price the Raptors paid, however, could be just for a one-season rental. Maybe even less than that with speculations abound that Leonard could sit out the 2018-19 season until he can opt out of his contract next summer and then sign with a team of his choosing. So far, a glimmer of hope for the Canadian franchise still flickers ever so slightly. The general feedback is that the team’s communications with the arguably one of the world’s best two-way players have been “good.” We will see what happens when their training camp comes around.
Plus, there’s also concern on whether or not Kawhi Leonard has recovered completely from that injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season. There’s word that he could participate in a Team USA mini-camp and we will be able to see him on the court and in action, if he does decide to join.
DeRozan will join veteran big man, LaMarcus Aldridge as the Spurs’ main scorers this coming season. The prolific scorer will need to make an adjustment to his team’s culture, which has been legendary for its emphasis on defense and a slow, deliberate pace using halfcourt sets.
Ever since LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers a couple of weeks ago, the Eastern Conference looked like it would be dominated by the Boston Celtics, with the Philadelphia 76ers coming in at a distant second. If Leonard does buy into the Raptors’ plans and vision for the future and plays this season, the Raptors are immediately catapulted upward as serious challengers for that Eastern Conference title.