In what has been expected for some time, the San Antonio Spurs finally unloaded disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, sending him to Toronto on Wednesday. The Spurs also sent Danny Green to the Raptors, in exchange for DeMar Derozan, University of Utah product Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick.
The trade ends Leonard’s seven-year run in San Antonio, where he was named to two All-Star teams, two All-NBA First Teams, and four All-Defensive Teams. He also was named to the 2012 All-Rookie First Team and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year while leading the Spurs to the 2014 NBA championship, being named Finals MVP.
Official: We've acquired Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl & a 2019 protected first-round draft pick.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 18, 2018
Leonard only played nine games for the Spurs last season, and reports emerged that Leonard and his camp were unhappy about how the team handled his quad injury. He had been medically cleared by San Antonio’s medical staff and returned, but then returned to the sideline. In March it was reported the Spurs held a players-only meeting asking Leonard to return to action as the team was fighting for a playoff spot. However, he did not return and requested a trade only months later.
During the nine games he appeared in, Leonard averaged 16.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 2.0 SPG before leaving the team indefinitely.
The Spurs received four-time All-Star DeMar Derozan in the deal, who is under contract for two more seasons with a player option for 2020-21. The Raptors all-time leading scorer led the team to five consecutive playoff berths, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016.
Did the Spurs win the trade?
The Spurs seem to be the early winners of the trade, being able to land an All-Star in return for an unhappy Kawhi Leonard. With DerRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge leading San Antonio into the 2018-19 season, The Spurs look to make the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season. Poeltl will also provide valuable minutes off the bench for the Spurs, mainly behind Aldridge.
Risky for the Raptors?
The trade carries significant risk for Toronto by dealing an All-Star caliber player who has two years remaining on his contract and a young developing center under team control for a superstar in Leonard who can leave the team after the 2018-19 season. If Leonard leaves the Raptors, the team could be headed for a possible rebuild.
It has been reported by ESPN’s Chris Haynes that Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, and if he doesn’t return to full health it would be difficult for the Raptors to flip him at the trade deadline in February. If he returns to full strength, Leonard and the Raptors should be a top threat in the Lebron James-less Eastern Conference, while San Antonio should be able to return to the playoffs again despite the offseason loss of Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson along with Leonard and Danny Green.
Only time will tell who won this trade and with the NBA season set to begin in October, both teams will look remain competitive in the playoff race.