Erick Reynolds | @ErickReynolds_
5:30 PM, July 18, 2018
On July 18th, it was finally announced that Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard was on his way to the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for superstar SG DeMar DeRozan, PF Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 Top-20 Protected Pick. With this trade, the stalemate between Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs organization, with Leonard wanting to leave due to the way the Spurs handled his injury this past season.
The trade sent shockwaves through the NBA world, and even DeMar DeRozan, who didn’t know until very shortly before the trade was announced. DeRozan caused a bit of controversy by posting on his Instagram that he felt like there was no loyalty, after he was reportedly assured that there was no plans to trade him at all. DeRozan is unarguably one of the best guards in the entire league, and the Raptors are risking a lot to trade him.
There is many reasons why this trade was incredibly risky for Toronto. The main issue is Leonard’s outspoken desire to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, aside new addition LeBron James. Leonard had previously threatened to sit out the entire season if he wasn’t traded to the Lakers. His attitude was a red flag for many teams who wanted to trade for him, as this is his last year of his 5 year/$94M deal he signed with the Spurs in 2014. If Leonard decides to leave after next season, the Raptors would have traded a superstar in DeRozan, and a quality draft pick for a one year rental in Leonard. The Raptors are clearly in “win-now” mode, even if it is for only one year. However, if they can’t convince Leonard to stay, they’ve potentially risked the next decade of Raptors basketball.