As you have probably already heard, the San Antonio Spurs finally traded Kawhi Leonard. They shipped him off along with Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick. This is obviously big news, as the strangest story of the last season has finally come to a close. For now.
What does this mean for both the Spurs and the Raptors?
First, let’s talk about the Spurs. This was the best possible trade for them. No other team would have given up a star player, and they got a consistent and reliable star in Derozan. He is also a very quiet player who doesn’t seem to gravitate to the large markets. He has played in Toronto for the first nine years of his career and no rumor ever came out about him wanting to play elsewhere.
Derozan has averaged over 20 points per game for the last five years. He’s a career 45 percent field goal shooter and he can pass and rebound as needed. His biggest struggle has been his three-point shooting percentage, but it’s safe to assume that he will become a more efficient player on the Spurs. He should fit well as the main scorer with Aldridge in the Spurs’ system.
The Spurs also got a protected first round pick for 2019. Assuming the Raptors are a playoff team, the Spurs will get a late first-round pick next year. Even though a player drafted this late is unlikely to become a quality player in the league, the Spurs have a way of taking such players and getting production out of them. Kawhi himself was not a high profile lottery pick, going 15th to the Pacers in 2011.
Now, let’s look at the Raptors. Their reasons for making this trade are clear. They stagnated in the Eastern Conference after losing to the Cavs three years in a row. It also seems like other teams in the East are rising to take the Cavs place and the Raptors are not in a position to make such a leap. This was a gamble, but one they felt they could take without damaging their future should things not work out.
I understand all those reasons, but I still think this trade was terrible for them. First off, they got Kawhi Leonard, who decided to not show up to work for months, or even talk to his team and coaches. Who’s to say he won’t throw such a hissy fit early in his tenure with the Raptors? If he decides he doesn’t want to play in Toronto, he might not even show up for training camp, or he won’t give any effort. Not only can Kawhi Leonard do that, he has done it in the past.
Second, they gave up DeMar Derozan, their best player. He has a reputation of being a choker in the playoffs, but this reputation isn’t really fair, as it’s only based on game 3 of the Cavs Raptors series in the 2018 playoffs. Over the last five years, Kyle Lowry has been a much bigger choker. Therefore, I would have tried to trade away Lowry, not Derozan, if I were the Raptors.
Lastly, everyone assumes Kawhi Leonard is a top 5 talent in the league. He won a finals MVP, was defensive player of the year, and finished top 3 in MVP voting last year. Assuming he comes back to full strength and acts like an adult and not the child we saw last year, I do not believe he’s a top five talent. I believe he’s the product of the Spurs’ system, and we will see that when he plays for a much worse system and coach.
His finals MVP doesn’t mean he was the best player in the series, or even on the Spurs. If you remember, the Spurs won that series with great teamwork and ball movement. Guys like Boris Diaw, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker really stepped up, and let’s not forget that the legend in Tim Duncan played well. Tony Parker actually scored the most points on the team in that series. I personally thought Tim Duncan and Tony Parker deserved the award more.
There are reports that suggest Kawhi is not happy to play in Toronto. I cannot speak to that, but as I discussed here, I wouldn’t give up anything of value for Kawhi Leonard, as if he had an issue with the holy grail of all NBA organizations (and behaved like a child in the process), why would I assume he wouldn’t do the same to my organization? It’s not worth it to give up a reliable star for such a player.
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Featured Photo Credit: USA Today