On Wednesday morning, the NBA world finally got what it had been yearning for: a Kawhi Leonard trade. To the surprise of many, it was the Raptors, not the Lakers, 76ers, or Celtics, who pulled the trigger. The Spurs sent over Leonard and Danny Green and the Raptors sent over DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round pick. Let’s go over the winner(s) and loser(s) of the trades.
Winner: Toronto Raptors
The Raptors were in a tough spot coming into this offseason. Finishing with the best record in the NBA, LeBron James proved to everyone that these Raptors aren’t as great as it may seem on paper. If this Toronto roster couldn’t beat a weak Cavs team, a young Sixers team, and an injured Boston team, there was no chance that they could make it out of the East next year.
However, the Raptors now have a top five player in the NBA, immediately the most talented player in their franchise’s history. DeMar DeRozan is a great on-ball scorer but he doesn’t shoot the three well, can be inefficient, doesn’t play off the ball, and doesn’t play much defense. Leonard is the best defender in the NBA and an elite offensive talent. He and Kyle Lowry should mesh well together and bring the Raptors back to the top of the East. Danny Green is also no slouch, a great three and D guy who will fit well in Toronto.
Not to mention, the Raptors gave up little to nothing besides DeRozan. Jakob Poeltl is an anachronism in the modern NBA and the Raptors’ 2019 first round pick shouldn’t be all that valuable. Given that the Raptors were able to keep O.G. Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, two very good young talents.
This trade provides absolutely no risk for a Toronto team that was formerly in a very tough spot. If things go well this year and the Raptors can make the finals, Kawhi Leonard may be convinced to stay. It doesn’t seem likely now but Kawhi himself showed us all how fast things can change in this NBA. If the Raptors underwhelm, Leonard and Green both come off of the books in 2019 and they can begin a full rebuild.
Loser: San Antonio Spurs
In trading away Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs didn’t bring in any assets that give them meteoric value in 2018. DeMar DeRozan is only 28 and a borderline All-NBA player but he isn’t a game changer like Kawhi Leonard is. The Spurs’ two stars both have somewhat old-school playstyles. DeRozan loves the mid-range and driving the rock and LaMarcus Aldridge loves to post up. The Spurs could definitely make these two playstyles work and I bet they will. This team is likely a top-four seed in the West but what happens after that?
This Spurs team isn’t good enough to make a run at the finals as is. Besides Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs didn’t acquire much that would help to jump-start a rebuild, which the Spurs are clearly reluctant to do. Jakob Poeltl is an upgrade over Pau Gasol but won’t ever be more than a role player. The Raptors’ 2019 first round pick will likely be at the very back of the first round. The fact that the Spurs couldn’t convince the Raptors to add Siakam or Anunoby in the deal is disappointing.
DeRozan will take minutes away from first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV, who I believe has All-Star potential. Even if DeRozan was the best individual player San Antonio could have received, a package of picks and young players would have been better. A package from Portland including Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Wade Baldwin or Gary Trent and picks would help jump start their rebuild. The Spurs could have gotten a much better package here.
What are your thoughts?
— Full Press NBA (@FPC_NBA) July 18, 2018