With the storm settled around the Kawhi Leonard trade, let’s break down the fallout for the San Antonio Spurs.
Two weeks have passed since the San Antonio Spurs made the NBA’s marquee trade of the summer, moving Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
This trade solved the months-long saga between Leonard and the Spurs, which evolved over the handling of the former’s right quadriceps injury, initially announced before the 2017 preseason. Leonard would only play nine games in the 2017-18 season, returning for this short stretch from December to January, without back-to-back games.
Eventually, Leonard wanted out and to join the Los Angeles Lakers. That never happened, as the Lakers can risk not giving up Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and other assets for a player that wants to join them in July 2018. So, the Raptors swooped in, gave the Spurs DeRozan and will take a chance on someone once considered an MVP candidate.
For the Spurs, they received DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star that should jump into the starting lineup. Poeltl has the potential to back up at center or receive some starts as the 2018-19 season goes on.
With the dust settled on the deal, however, what are the reactions to San Antonio’s return for Leonard? What about the legacies left behind by Leonard and Green?
In this latest roundtable, the Air Alamo staff broke down the fallout of the trade that shook the Spurs franchise. What does everyone think about it?
Next: Did the Spurs receive enough?
Did the Spurs receive enough for Kawhi Leonard?
Maitland Rutledge: To me, the Spurs got about what I expected. Every team that wanted Kawhi was going to wiggle down the deal as much as possible. Kawhi put this franchise in a difficult spot and I knew no matter what, San Antonio was likely going to get a deal of lesser value. I did like that the Spurs received another all-star in DeMar DeRozan.
Kendall Garriss: Regardless of whatever trade package the Spurs received for Leonard, the answer to this question would always be no. Kawhi was a Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a MVP candidate. None of the available deals, even the Lakers’ so-called “Godfather” offer, would have felt like enough for the superstar-caliber player that Leonard is when healthy.
However, the Raptors deal was the only legitimate deal on the table that allowed the Spurs to receive an All-Star player back in DeMar DeRozan in the exchange. While I still do not believe that it was enough, I can only complain so much about receiving a perennial All-Star and the Raptors’ leading scorer.
Matias Weilmann: It seems crazy to think that a month ago, we were talking about the Spurs potentially getting some combination of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and some picks. Compared to what the Spurs were reportedly in the mix for, this is not as much as Spurs fans should have wanted. And considering who Kawhi Leonard is (IF healthy), it’s impossible to feel like enough.
The Spurs are reportedly very happy with the return, and considering what their goal was, they should be. Poeltl is young and adds depth at a much-needed position, and DeMar lets them stay relevant now. Kawhi’s trade value was in the gutter, and with rebuilding not being an option, the Spurs got enough of a return, all things considered.
Ryan Kostrzewa: Heck no, but the team didn’t have much of a choice. Given the circumstances, the Spurs had three choices: keep a disgruntled superstar on the roster, trade him with an eye for the future, or trade for maximum immediate value. The Spurs chose the third option, and took the best deal they felt would be available. Did they get enough value for the best two-way player in the league? No. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad deal.
Ethan Farina: I don’t think that the Spurs received fair market value for a top 5 player but they made out with as good of a haul as they were going to get. San Antonio clearly didn’t want to rebuild. Getting a top-15 player in DeRozan and a promising young frontcourt piece in Poeltl is a solid return.
Dylan Carter: It wasn’t the haul that I was expecting but after reflecting and seeing how this team has come together, I think the Spurs received enough for Kawhi. They returned an All-NBA caliber player along with a surefire pick and a young contributor in Poeltl. This allows the team to improve upon last year while adding young talent and remaining competitive in the Wild West.
Rob Wolkenbrod: It was a surprise to not see the Spurs receive more young assets. I guess a player of DeRozan’s caliber makes up for it — a player with limits but still a quality scorer to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge.
My shock came from the draft pick compensation. Protection from 1-20, only to become two second-round picks if the Raptors fall within that range? It seemed off that the pick protection did not decrease by the year, until it became unprotected in, let’s say, the 2020 NBA Draft.
No one who the Spurs received will become Leonard, and that’s the difficult part. DeRozan and Poeltl are fine players, but it’s impossible to think their impact will match Leonard’s, when healthy.
Next: Were you disappointed with Poeltl over Anunoby, Siakam?
Were you disappointed the Spurs received Poeltl over Anunoby or Siakam?
Rutledge: I was disappointed OG Anunoby was not in the deal. I thought he could have been a good reserve big man for the Spurs since they could really use more depth there, but I am glad they at least got Jakob Poeltl. While I still see Davis Bertans as the eighth, ninth man off the bench, Poeltl should find his way in the rotation. He has great size and the Spurs have always had a reputation of turning unknown talent into good role players.
Garriss: Absolutely. I wouldn’t even say disappointed covers it. I was legitimately shocked that the Spurs would agree to a deal with the Raptors that didn’t include Poeltl AND Anunoby or Siakam. I can handle not getting Siakam but I find myself losing sleep over not being able to get Anunoby back in the deal.
During his final season at Indiana, OG was dubbed as “the next Kawhi Leonard.” So, if the Spurs had to trade Leonard one would hope to get back a young player that embodies some of his characteristics. While Poeltl is a fine piece with a lot of defensive upside, his offense leaves a lot to be desired unless he learns to expand his game outside the paint.
Weilmann: It’s impossible not to be disappointed the Spurs didn’t get Anunoby OR Siakam. I would have thought Anunoby was the main goal, but considering the Spurs wanted to stay relevant, DeRozan was clearly the focus in this trade. It’s clear now that the Spurs were not getting Anunoby/Siakam and DeRozan, and in the end they just decided they’d rather get DeRozan than Anunoby.
To me, getting DeRozan over Anunoby and youth speaks volumes about this next chapter. If Spurs fans are going to waste their energy by getting upset at not getting Anunoby, I’d suggest seeing what they reportedly declined from the Boston Celtics.
Kostrzewa: Sure. I’m also disappointed they didn’t net LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the deal, but that doesn’t mean it was ever a realistic possibility. If the Spurs thought there was a chance to grab one of those guys, they would have kept negotiating, but reports seem to indicate they had absolutely no leverage at that point. DeRozan was the Spurs’ prize in this deal. Poeltl and the pick(s) are a bonus.
Farina: Initially, yes. When the news broke there was serious disappointment that OG Anunoby wouldn’t be coming to San Antonio. However, the more I learned about Poeltl the more I came to like him. I’m actually excited to see how he does. He’s only 23 years old, protects the rim at an elite level, and he will be surrounded by other talented big men, as well as coaches, who know how to maximize talent. He’s a high floor, lower ceiling role player.
On The Lowe Post, Zach Lowe told ESPN’s Michael C. Wright that Poeltl was one of the smartest players he had ever meet. I really think he will do well in the Alamo City.
Carter: Absolutely. Missing out on OG was a real bummer, as his two-way potential would’ve made him an important contributor immediately. That’s a guy who many believe could become a Kawhi-like player in the long run, so I believe he should’ve been a primary target. Siakam would’ve been nice as well, but Poeltl is going to contribute immediately. He fills a position of need at the backup Center with the potential to slide up into Pau Gasol’s starting spot. Poeltl is a very good young talent and could become something special under the tutelage of Pop and the staff.
Wolkenbrod: Anunoby’s value might have soared by word of mouth alone. He’s a nice player, who’s hardly developed but flashed two-way upside in his rookie year. It would have been the ideal player to groom in a Kawhi mold, but it is what it is.
I don’t mind Poeltl over Siakam. Sure, the NBA has trended away from traditional centers who can’t shoot, but Poeltl can still protect the rim; he might be their best player in this attribute if anything. Plus, Siakam still has ways to go in his development and no guarantee to become a long term starter at power forward.
Next: What's Kawhi's legacy?
What’s Kawhi’s legacy in San Antonio?
Rutledge: Based on all of this, it feels two-faced. On one hand, he was a player San Antonio took a chance on in the draft and turned into arguably the best two-way player in the league. On the other hand, he became guy who is an anti-Spur. Kawhi felt it was all about him, his injury, and players not supporting him. He will be remembered as the guy who could not live up to taking over for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili as the franchise player.
Garriss: Recency bias would say that Kawhi’s legacy has been tarnished based on the behavior he has exhibited over the last year. Lost in all of the drama are the good times that Leonard gave this franchise: locking down LeBron James in the Finals en route to the organization’s fifth championship and Finals MVP honors, continuing the franchise’s history of 50-win seasons and the yearly threat of contention from having the best two-player in the game on the team.
But now all of that feels like a distant memory. I don’t recognize this Kawhi Leonard. This was not the heir apparent to the Tim Duncan dynasty that Spurs fans signed up for. Seeing Kawhi reportedly being sequestered away from Spurs staffers in New York, not being on the bench during the playoffs and not returning calls from Spurs legend and hall-of-famer David Robinson, it’s hard not to look at Kawhi’s departure from the Alamo City without disdain and a sour taste in one’s mouth.
Weilmann: I think it’s still too early to determine this. We still don’t know all the details about the circumstances surrounding Kawhi Leonard and his camp. I think that until we get the full picture (if we ever do) and until we see the results of this trade, it’ll be difficult to really see his legacy.
I’ll always appreciate what Kawhi brought to the Spurs. Between his tough defense and his improvements on offense, I grew to love Leonard and will always appreciate what he did on the court. However, it’s impossible to not look at all the drama from this season and his deafening silence. Ask me this question again in 2 years.
Kostrzewa: Legacy is a long term thing, and I think it depends on what happens next. If he ultimately decides to stick with the Raptors and has a respectable career, I think time heals all wounds and the city will be thankful for his part in bringing home #5. However, if he bolts for the Lakers, I don’t know that San Antonio will ever quite get over being spurned for the team’s biggest rival. In that case, he could go down as the biggest villain in franchise history, which would be unfortunate given how much good he did in his early years.
Farina: Kawhi’s legacy in San Antonio will, in an interesting twist of fate, likely be similar to the legacy that Vince Carter had in Toronto for much of his career. An exciting player who looked to be the future of the franchise but eventually forced his way out of town in order to seek greener pastures. Kawhi was the quiet superstar who was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Or so it seemed. The ending of this story was ugly.
By mid-summer, quite a few Spurs fans cared less about what the team got in return for Kawhi and more about getting him as far away from San Antonio as possible. Toronto is about as far away from San Antonio as you can get in the NBA landscape so, wish granted. I believe that someday San Antonio will embrace Kawhi again and appreciate the time that we did have with him. Maybe someday Kawhi will receive the sort of welcome Carter eventually did in Toronto. It’s certainly not going to happen this season though.
Carter: For most Spurs fans, the Kawhi saga will be remembered as a “what could’ve been” situation. Led by Kawhi, San Antonio had a legitimate chance to contend with Golden State and that’ll surely stick with the city. His 2014 Finals MVP run leading into his emergence over the following seasons brought the best out of the fans. The way he handled his departure from the team will 100 percent damper his legacy, but with time, I believe the fans will find peace and remember the good times.
For what it’s worth, the city was prepared to embrace him as the star of the future and he turned his back on that. The legacy he leaves as an All-Time great basketball player is up to him, but he shattered his legacy as a Spur.
Wolkenbrod: Kawhi will go down as one of San Antonio’s greatest players of all time, but with the asterisk of “it could have been more.” Easily top 10 and maybe around No. 6, but a longer run with the Silver and Black had the chance to cement his legacy.
Given how quiet the Spurs organization is, Leonard’s loud exit will not leave fans’ minds. Unless he returns in a future season, this is the player that received his wish and wanted out of one of the NBA’s most successful franchises of the past two decades. Not an easy thing to go away, even five, seven or 10 years down the line.
Next: What's Danny Green's legacy?
What about Danny Green, the forgotten man of this deal?
Rutledge: Green will be missed. His defense and three-point shooting helped the Spurs win championship number five in 2014 and stay in contention these past four years. I thought Green would end his career as a Spur and when he opted back into his contract, it definitely seemed that way. Losing him hurts the Spurs even more, especially since DeRozan is not known for his defense.
Garriss: Losing Danny hurt, not just because he’s a fellow UNC alum, but because Green was the quintessential Spurs player. The consummate professional and the ultimate team player, Green’s sole focus was never filling up the scoring sheet but rather doing the dirty work to help his team win.
Not only did the Spurs lose a three-point specialist and All-NBA defensive player, they lost a leader. Other than Tony Parker, now with the Charlotte Hornets, and Manu Ginobili, who’s still on the fence about retirement, Green was one of the longest tenured Spurs players on the roster.
Green has seen just about everything as a player and his championship experience and veteran leadership will be deeply missed for a team whose identity is now in flux. The return of Marco Belinelli is crucial for helping maintain the team culture but the Spurs are entering a new age and it’s unclear who’s going to be the one to step up and take the reins.
Weilmann: Danny Green won’t be forgotten by Spurs fans. Danny Green was an integral part of what the Spurs have done over the past seven seasons. As one of the better 3-and-D players in the league, Green’s value on the court speaks for itself. Green is a career 39% three-point shooter and has averaged around a steal and block per game over his nine seasons in the NBA.
Danny Green is a selfless player who is an avid contributor to the community. As basketball fans, it’s easy to forget how important these athletes are off the court. I’m not sure how Spurs fans will greet Kawhi in their first encounter on opposing sides, but Green should receive a thunderous ovation.
Kostrzewa: Green’s legacy is much more certain. Despite some inconsistency in his last few seasons, green should go down as one of the franchise’s all-time great role players, in the vein of Bowen, Johnson, and Elliott. Although the larger fanbase never really appreciated his defensive excellence, his loyalty, character, and key contributions over nearly a decade of service (as well as those wonderful, awkward BurgerFi commercials) should earn him a spot in the rafters.
Farina: Moving away from Danny Green is a move that just had to be made. He’s still a solid wing player, Toronto is lucky to have him. He should fit in really well there. There simply wasn’t enough room, financially and in the lineup, for Danny to stay in San Antonio with DeRozan coming in.
Sending him north had to be done. His departure not only opens up cap space, $10 million was too much for what he brought to the table, it also frees up minutes for the Spurs younger guards. Derrick White will look to build off of a solid summer league, DeRozan is in line for roughly 35 minutes a night, and Lonnie Walker IV will need to play as well. That’s not even considering Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, and potentially Manu.
Carter: This one stung. Danny has been a staple of the team for nearly a decade and has embodied the Spurs family more than almost any other player. His selflessness, team-first mentality, work ethic and passion for the game often get brushed over because of his role. From a basketball standpoint, it could’ve been worse. Danny’s on-court performance has dipped in recent years and with a full guard rotation, the team will survive without him.
But damn… I’m going to miss those Tar Heel Triples.
Wolkenbrod: Green’s defensive presence will be missed, as the Spurs did not replace anyone in this regard. He held down a starting spot for most of eight years, so it’s big shoes to fill, even though a limited offensive game was brought to the table.
I don’t need to reiterate what everyone else said about Green’s character. He became a well-known face in the Spurs community and someone who may always be welcomed back, no matter what team he’s on. The fans will give a standing ovation when the Raptors come to San Antonio.
Next: How far can an Aldridge-DeRozan duo go?
Moving forward, how far can a DeRozan-Aldridge duo lead the Spurs in the West?
Rutledge: It may take some to adjust for the team and fans, but these are your best players. Both were all-stars last season, but can they co-exist with a new team is the big question. The Spurs still have a strong nucleus of guards in Dejounte Murray, who I feel is poised for a breakout season, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Dante Cunningham, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills.
If Manu Ginobili returns it would be a huge boost as well. While the forward and center positions feel shaky outside of Aldridge and Pau Gasol, this roster is still one of the better ones in the Western Conference. I can currently see this team advancing to the second round.
Garriss: Last season, the Spurs won 47 games and managed to secure a 7-seed, all with Kawhi Leonard only suiting up for nine matches. There is room for cautious optimism for Spurs fans. While the departures are all significant blows to the roster, the addition of DeRozan is something fans should be excited about.
While the team may not be as strong defensively, a starting lineup of Dejounte Murray (8.1 points), DeRozan (23 points, Rudy Gay (11.5 points), LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points) and Pau Gasol (10 points) projects to be one of the highest-scoring starting lineups in the league. Coupled with a bench that was the fourth-highest scoring bench in the league last season, the Spurs will be fielding a number of potent and exciting lineups next season.
Assuming DeRozan and Aldridge don’t get too congested operating in the mid-range and are able to build some solid chemistry throughout the season, the Spurs can look to start a new 50-win season streak and could be as high as a 4 or 5 seed in the West.
Weilmann: I’m still a little skeptical about the fit between midrange maestros in DeRozan and Aldridge. The Spurs finished 28th in three-point shooting last season, and all they did to address that was sign 32-year-old Marco Belinelli and acquire a career 29 percent shooter in DeRozan. Not exactly ideal.
With how stacked the Western Conference is, there’s going to be pressure if the team can’t figure things out quickly. The Spurs won an impressive 47 games last season and finished just two games out of the third seed, but also only finished a game outside of missing the playoffs. I think Zach Lowe summed it up perfectly on his podcast, The Lowe Post: as it stands now, the Spurs are a “high floor, low ceiling team”.
Kostrzewa: While I do think Aldridge and DeRozan can carry the team to the playoffs, the length of any playoff run will depend on the youngsters. If Murray can take a big step in his development and the Spurs get better-than-expected contributions from some of the other youngsters I’d guess they land somewhere between third and fifth in the west. When I rack and stack the teams in the West, I think their floor would be ninth overall if everything goes wrong.
Farina: This was a 47 win team last year, the addition of a 2nd Team All NBA player should add at least 5 wins on to that total. But let’s be honest with ourselves, this move didn’t elevate San Antonio over Houston or Golden State. It solidified the Spurs place in the 2nd tier of Western Conference teams.
Carter: Let’s put things into perspective: San Antonio won 47 games with a stagnant offense without Kawhi Leonard. Adding DeMar DeRozan to the mix is going to make for a very interesting season. With the West wide open past the Warriors and Rockets, San Antonio’s ceiling is the third seed. If the pieces can click and the team is motivated, they can truly make a run. There’s a lot of talent on this roster. With improved three-point shooting, a clear-cut rotation and an additional superstar on the roster, San Antonio should certainly get back above the 50-win threshold.
Wolkenbrod: The Spurs won nearly 50 games without Kawhi and a team that faced injury adversity to other players for most of the season. Adding DeRozan to that equation, with a revitalized Aldridge around, should make for an interesting proposition for the Spurs in the 2018-19 season, even in a crowded Western Conference.
There are doubts about San Antonio, but look for them to at least match their 47-win mark and surprise everyone, again. Never count out Gregg Popovich, and believe in the young pieces that are poised to improve and become quality players.