Grading the Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan trade: Raptors win big; Spurs try to stay decent
The Spurs sent Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick
Two big questions have been solved with San Antonio Spurs have finally moved on from Kawhi Leonard, dealing him to the Toronto Raptors along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. And as everyone was waiting for the shoe to drop on the Leonard saga, this deal has also shown the Raptors were willing to make a big change to their roster after seemingly reaching a plateau with their current group.on Wednesday morning. After months of speculation and rumors, the
Now that the deal has been agreed to, and the players involved notified ---- let's grade the trade.
OK, so there are a few things to note here that are important. First, there are no guarantees that Leonard is healthy. Everyone sort of expects him to be ready for the season, but we haven't actually seen him on the court. He'll still have to pass a physical, as well. Second, he, and this very well could be a one-year rental.
Regardless, this is a fantastic trade by the Raptors.
Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and an MVP candidate when healthy. He may have faded in the collective consciousness of NBA fans because of how little he played last season, but this guy is insanely good. If he is healthy and playing even close to peak level, the Raptors are going to be phenomenal. They won a franchise-record 59 games last season and replaced DeRozan -- a very good player, to be fair, but also a flawed one -- with Leonard, a top-five player in the league.
Plus they added Green, another very solid 3-and-D wing who can also bring some much needed shooting to their squad. They kept their best player, Kyle Lowry, they didn't have to give up Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby, and if this deal blows up their face, their pick is protected such that they should be able to keep it.
There are no guarantees in the NBA, and so much is going to change before the playoffs roll around, but LeBron James is no longer in the East. With Leonard now in town, the Raptors have as good of a shot as anyone at the top of the conference to make the Finals. Even if Leonard does leave next summer and this is just a one-year run, the goal is to win a championship. And after this trade the Raptors just gave themselves the best chance to do so in franchise history.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs want to remain relevant. That much was clear before the deal, as they signed veterans like Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli earlier in the offseason, and it's extra-clear now. There may have been better packages out there from the likes of Boston or Los Angeles, but those would have included young players and future picks. Maybe in the long run it would have worked out better for the Spurs, but in the deal with the Raptors they were able to get an All-Star in his prime, who is locked up for at least the next two seasons.
And that's never a bad thing. Yes, DeRozan has his flaws. He's not a top-10 player or anything, but he's worked incredibly hard over the past few seasons and has turned himself into one of the best scorers in the league. The Spurs made the playoffs last season essentially without Leonard, and adding DeRozan should keep them right in the mix, even in a difficult Western Conference.
Still, there are some question marks on this deal. For one, it's almost shocking that the best young player the Spurs could get in return was Poeltl. He has upside, but the Spurs would have done much better in this deal if they could have gotten Anunoby or Siakam instead.
Plus, that is not a great first-round pick. It's protected in the top 20, so either the Spurs will get a pick in the 20s or two second-rounders -- not a great value. And on top of that, they also had to give up Green, who's been an integral part of their system for many seasons now.
Perhaps those were the sacrifices the Spurs had to make in order to get a current All-Star in DeRozan -- and to move Leonard to the Eastern Conference -- but those factors definitely lower the future value of the deal.
To be fair to the Spurs, they were in a terrible spot. It may have been partly their own doing, but there really wasn't a good outcome for them once Leonard made it clear he wanted out. Still, that doesn't mean you get a pass on whatever trade you end up making, and some of the ancillary parts of this deal are pretty questionable. They'll still be a solid team with DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way, but how far can those two really take you in a loaded West?
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