In a blockbuster trade reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, the San Antonio Spurs have traded superstar Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for all-star DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round draft pick protected 1-20. This officially ends the Kawhi period in San Antonio and the drama that came with it. It had made public by Leonard that he wanted out of San Antonio, and the vast majority of people are still confused with the situation that was going on, but this brings a new outlook to both the Spurs and the Raptors. Below are my first thoughts for each team in the trade.
What this means for Toronto
First of all, hats off to Masai Ujuri and his team in Toronto, as they were able to land a superstar in Leonard without giving up young prospects like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or an unprotected first. According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Kawhi has no desire to play in Toronto, but that could change because of the level of difficulty in the Eastern Conference. This trade is an enormous risk for Toronto, as if he doesn't play for them, this could potentially be a disaster. However, if Kawhi does end up playing for them, this is going to be an incredible defensive team. Take a look at this potential starting 5:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Danny Green / OG Anunoby
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Add in role players off the bench such as Fred VanVleet, Siakam, and CJ Miles, and the Raptors should be in contention for the top of the Eastern Conference again next season. It will be interesting with what new head coach Nick Nurse does with this squad. If either Kawhi holds out or Toronto decides to deal him, they could ship him to a Western Conference team like the Lakers or the Clippers and get some valuable young pieces back in return, and undergo a quick rebuild. There is also the potential of losing him for nothing in free agency, and gaining nothing but cap space. This would likely then lead to players like Lowry and Ibaka to be dealt to contenders as well. For now, a good job by the Raptors to acquire one of basketball's biggest names.
What this means for San Antonio
While they may have not gotten any younger through this trade, the return the Spurs got for Leonard isn't bad by any means at all. DeMar DeRozan is an established star and a go-to scorer, and will definitely make an impact with his new team and help take a lot of the scoring load off of LaMarcus Aldridge. I can't help but feel bad for him though, as he has been fighting LeBron all his career and once he's finally gone to the West, DeRozan gets shipped to the West too. Once thing I am intrigued about is DeRozan and Poeltl teaming up with coach Gregg Popovich, as he tends to get the most out of his players. Here's a projected starting lineup for San Antonio:
PG: Dejounte Murray
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Pau Gasol
Key Role Players: Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Lonnie Walker IV
The Spurs were able to manage to grab the 7th seed last year without Kawhi, and I expect around the same result this year, maybe a little higher. The West is just way too dominant, and if they were in the East, this team would likely be in the top 4 or 5 in the conference. The Spurs were able to land a superstar in return for Kawhi, and after seeing Leonard's trade value dip, that is very impressive.
Best/Worst Case Scenarios for each team
BEST: Kawhi decides to stay, Raptors make ECF, Leonard re-signs and Toronto remains a contender
WORST: Leonard still refuses to play, Toronto is unable to find a deal for him and he walks in free agency, beginning a rebuild
BEST: DeRozan averages 28 PPG and is named to 2nd team All-NBA, San Antonio makes a run in the playoffs and Kyrie Irving signs with them in 2019
WORST: DeRozan's production dips, the Spurs miss the playoffs fo the first time since 1997 and begin a rebuild as well.
For now, this looks like a good trade to me for both teams. They both swap stars in efforts to change things up and it will be interesting to see things play out. However, a good trade now can be a horrible trade later, so time will tell who got the better side.
Pictures courtesy of Sporting News