Kawhi to the Raptors!

The Spurs have agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for Demar Derozan, Jakob Potel and a protected 2019 first round pick(Link).  Just wow.  I think most people thought that OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam would be included in the deal since they were the Raptors best prospects with upside.  I thought this move was a good gamble for Toronto even before the deal became finalized so upon further review now that the details have come out, this deal is extremely smart by Toronto.  They get off of Derozan’s contract which has two years plus a third year player option for $27 million per season and get the best player in the deal.  How often does the team salary dumping contracts get the best player in the deal?  Even if it’s most likely for a one year rental, it’s an attractive risk profile.  

Derozan is a mid-range jump-shooter who can draw fouls, get to the line, score buckets, is an average at best defender and outlived his shelf life next to Lowry.   Even if Kawhi decides to go to Los Angeles next summer, the Raptors still retain their two best prospects, have Danny Green’s expiring contract and more cap flexibility without Derozan’s toxic deal.  It’s a good bet that Kawhi doesn’t re-sign with the Raptors but it’s a smart gamble no matter how you slice it.  This is by far the best Raptors team in team history and probably are a true contender now.  A five man unit of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Lowry has the versatility, length, spacing, playmaking and defense to be an elite lineup in today’s NBA. Their perimeter defense will suffocate anyone who can’t remotely dribble.  They can switch more on pick-and-rolls, stretch the court horizontally and play multiple styles. The eastern conference just got a whole lot better.

I guess the Spurs really didn’t have much leverage anywhere.  The Lakers, Clippers, Sixers and Raptors all had total control over this process and for San Antonio to not get back either Anunoby or Siakam is a stunner.  The first round draft pick is protected 1-20 in 2019 and if it doesn’t convey it becomes two second round picks. That’s terrible for the Spurs.  Potel is a solid prospect but was by far the low man on the Raptors prospect totem pole.  Derozan will be weighing down their books for the next three years, the fit with San Antonio is questionable and they didn’t get back any real upside players. The Spurs should still be a playoff team but would I be surprised if a rebuild happens within the next couple seasons?  No. The Spurs are one of the best run organizations in sports so it’s tough to doubt them.  The only way this works out for the Spurs is if Derozan adapts his game to the modern NBA; play better perimeter defense, be more efficient from the outside and stop taking long twos.  Will he do that so far into his career?  If anyone can change his game, it’s Pop.  I do like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Chimezie Metu as a nice young core too.  But overall, the Spurs had their hands tied so maybe getting either Anunoby or Siakam wasn’t attainable.  This deal will land on Derozan and his maturation.  

If this can happen to the Spurs it can happen to anyone.  Players have all the power and leverage when it comes to market value.  I have a feeling this will only get worse and star players will be asking for targeted trades more often.  I honestly think it’s good for the league because at the end of the day it’s super riveting, promotes player movement and is down right fun to watch.