Kawhi Leonard traded to the Raptors: What did the Spurs accomplish?
By Matias Weilmann
With the Kawhi Leonard trade completed, what did the San Antonio Spurs accomplish?
Early Wednesday morning, the San Antonio Spurs finally traded away disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, sending him North to the Toronto Raptors. The Spurs also send Danny Green to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a heavily protected 2019 first round pick.
So did the Spurs win this trade? Well, it depends how you look at it.
At first glance, the Spurs lost this trade. Big time. At second glance, they probably still lost it.
When healthy, Kawhi Leonard is a top-3 player in the league. DeRozan is a 4-time all-star and has averaged 20+ points per game the past five season, but he pales in comparison to Leonard. It was a given that whatever star the Spurs received in return for Leonard would be a downgrade, but the value lied in the other asset they would receive.
The other two pieces the Spurs received in Poeltl and the protected pick are underwhelming at best. Though Poeltl showed flashes of potential in Toronto last season, he only averaged 6.9 points per game while pulling down 4.8 rebounds a game.
The pick is heavily protected and has potential to be a home run for the Spurs. If the Toronto pick falls outside of the top 20, the Spurs will receive two second-round picks in the 2020 draft.
I don’t know about other Spurs fans, but the trade doesn’t exactly have me jumping out of my shoes.
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This is no knock on DeRozan. He’s shown he’s a prolific scorer and improved both his playmaking ability and three-point shooting this past season. His playoff numbers are impossible to dismiss, including not hitting a single three-pointer in the final five playoff games this past offseason. DeRozan is known for disappearing during the postseason, and that’s something that won’t fly in San Antonio.
Poeltl will join a roster that has deficiencies in the frontcourt. Assuming Pau Gasol gets starter minutes at center, Poeltl will be a nice backup for the Spurs. There’s always hope that between Gasol and Popovich, a player like Poeltl could develop into a solid role player. Poeltl has 3 years left on his cheap rookie deal, including a team option after the 2019 season.
The reason I can’t see this trade as a win for the Spurs is because of what they weren’t able to do. At the end of the day, it’s hard to be mad at what the Spurs got back. Leonard is basically a one-year rental and, unlike Paul George, has an injury risk after only playing in 9 games in the entire 2017-18 season.
Combine that with the drama that Leonard’s camp has caused, and you can’t blame teams for not wanting to strip their team apart for potentially one year with Leonard.
It feels like the Spurs are falling into basketball purgatory, and to me, that was the worst possible outcome for the Spurs.
With the trade, the Spurs remain relevant. Take their roster from last year and swap Danny Green for DeRozan, since Leonard was a non-factor. This move allows the Spurs to remain relevant, but at what cost?
The Spurs missed out on offloading some bad money. One of the goals for the Spurs in ANY Kawhi trade should have been to get Patty Mills or Pau Gasol’s contracts off the books. They failed to do that, and that’s a loss in my eyes.
I probably share most Spurs fans’ feelings that this trade was a big loss, but if you don’t look at it in a vacuum, it was probably the best possible trade. It hurts to not get OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam back. Those were thought to be givens, but again, Leonard’s value has dropped substantially. The Lakers, Celtics and 76ers weren’t willing to part ways with their young stars and we still don’t know the second best deal the Spurs received.
Should Leonard leave Toronto after next season, which seems probable at this point, the trade will probably end up benefitting the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
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For now, it’s hard for Spurs fans to look at this trade as a huge win. At this point, they should just be glad all this drama is over.