Fantasy Basketball Trade Reaction: Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan swap places
Chris Towers breaks down what the Kawhi Leonard trade means for Fantasy purposes.
He may or may not be happy about it, but Kawhi Leonard is going to be playing in Toronto for at least a year. The disgruntled star was shipped to the Raptors in a four-player deal Wednesday, with Danny Green joining him in Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
This is yet another move that will send shockwaves through the league, in an offseason full of them, with the Raptors potentially taking the next step from also-rans to true contenders – non-Warriors division. On the Spurs side, it could keep them competitive after they basically spent all of 2017-18 playing without Leonard.
But will this make a big impact for Fantasy? That's a lot less clear.
Raptors acquire Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green
The biggest question about this deal from Toronto's side – beyond whether Leonard has any interest in spending one more day than he has to in Toronto – is whether Leonard will even be able to play. He missed all but nine games last season, due to a lingering quad issue that just never got better. There were rumblings that the Spurs thought he was healthy enough to play, but the fact is, Leonard didn't.
Of course, with an entire offseason of rest, the assumption is that Leonard will be fine for the start of the 2018-19 season. And, when he's on the floor, Leonard is an elite player, both in real life and in Fantasy hoops, providing high-volume scoring with elite defense and efficiency. In 2016-17, Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, with 2.5 combined blocks and steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 88.0 percent at the free-throw line. With just 2.1 turnovers per game. Add all that up, and that's a true nine-category contributor, and he finished as the No. 4 player in Rotisserie leagues that season.
Of course, Leonard also played 74 games in that season, a career-high, and just the second time he's ever played more than 70 games. Obviously, he missed 73 games last season, but he had also missed at least 16 in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well. Injury concerns have been enough to push Anthony Davis down into the late first round in recent years, and Leonard enters 2018 wearing about as big of an injury question mark as anyone.
If he's healthy, Leonard should fit right in for Toronto, who has a DeRozan-sized hole to fill in their lineup and offense. He'll give them a bit more shooting and a bit less playmaking than DeRozan did, but ultimately should be up to take on most of the 29.6 percent usage rate DeRozan leaves behind. There shouldn't be much concern about how Leonard fits in Toronto, where he'll play with an elite pick-and-roll playmaker at point guard, something he's certainly used to.
The question here is whether Leonard will be healthy and motivated entering a contract season that should see him at the center of the NBA's Lakers-centric rumor mill. If healthy, he's a top-five player in Fantasy. With all of the injury concerns, Leonard is a risky proposition in the first round. But if you're picking in the second half of the first round, he's a dynamite player to add to your squad.
Spurs acquire DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl
As with Leonard in Toronto, DeRozan should be a more or less natural fit in San Antonio. He likes to operate in a lot of the same spaces on the floor as LaMarcus Aldridge, which could lead to some awkwardness, but not too much. Both are skilled scorers, and there's plenty of room in that 20-foot range both love to operate from.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see DeRozan become a bit more efficient in the Spurs' offense, but don't expect a dramatic change. He started shooting more 3-pointers last season, and it wouldn't be surprising if that trend continued, but he'll never be even a Leonard-level shooter from deep. Expect him to be arguably the team's most important offensive player, initiating a lot of the offense from the wing, with similar numbers from what we've seen in the past.
That should make DeRozan a top-50 player, though possibly with slightly fewer counting stats with how San Antonio tends to limit minutes. He's a bit better in points leagues, but should be a No. 2 guard in either format, and that won't change in San Antonio.
Poeltl could be an interesting player to keep an eye on in San Antonio. He's been blocked by Jonas Valanciunas in Toronto, but put up 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds with 3.3 combined blocks and steals per-36 minutes with the Raptors a year ago, while dramatically improving his efficiency on offense. He doesn't have much range, but he's a surprisingly nimble and skilled finisher near the rim. Poeltl could slide into a 25-minute-per-game role in San Antonio, and would be a solid source of points, boards and blocks, so keep him in mind with a late-round pick.
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