San Antonio Spurs: How crazy is a Kawhi Leonard trade with the Raptors?
By Rob Wolkenbrod
Do the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors line up properly for a Kawhi Leonard trade?
ESPN.com recently proposed four trades for the Toronto Raptors, after the Cleveland Cavaliers dismantled them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. One of these included the San Antonio Spurs, and you can probably guess who is included.
Andre Snellings made the case for Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay for DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. He argued for why the trade fits what both teams want.
DeRozan’s game has taken off in recent seasons, as a top scorer from mid-range. Behind the arc is another story, although he shot 31.2 percent from 3-point range on a career-high 3.6 attempts — nearly two more attempts than his 2016-17 campaign.
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It makes for an interesting complement to LaMarcus Aldridge, but with two players that excel from inside the arc, would it risk the team’s game-by-game scoring potential without a top scorer from 3-point range?
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The Spurs did this for most of the 2017-18 season, without Leonard in the lineup. It resulted in a 35.2 percent mark — good for 26th in the NBA. They were also 27th in points per game, with 102.7, and also one of two playoff teams in the bottom 10 of the league in his statistic (the other was the Miami Heat in 23rd).
What if Dejounte Murray remains the starting point guard? He showed flashes out an outside game in the playoffs, but until that comes to consistently comes to fruition in the regular season, it leaves three players on the court that can’t spread the floor. That’s while the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets roll out lineups with at least four players who fit this mold.
Anunoby and Siakam are each interesting talents, however. Both excelled for the Raptors, with the rookie from Indiana starting 62 games, shooting 47.1 percent from the field (37.1 from 3-point range) and providing quality defense.
Snellings feels Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich can turn these two into “borderline stars.” That seems like a stretch, but Popovich did take Leonard from a toolsy player to one of the league’s most dynamic players when healthy.
Despite all this, the proposed trade crumbles at Gay’s player option. If he declines it and opts for free agency, everything is off the table. It works with Patty Mills’ contract, and that could realistically be a way to clear cap space, but Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet (a restricted free agent) and Norman Powell, to a lesser extent, already clog up the point guard position in Toronto.
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Unless the Spurs find a way to add a group of quality 3-point shooters around Aldridge and DeRozan (preferably one with size to offset the wing scorers of other top teams), or a third superstar, this proposed deal has a fragile foundation.