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San Antonio Spurs: Evaluating the Kawhi Leonard trade

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 8: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 8: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
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TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 8: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 8: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs shipped Kawhi Leonard to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan in one of the biggest moves of the offseason. How is that trade working out for both teams?

The San Antonio Spurs were forced to change the direction of their franchise when Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade after becoming frustrated with the organization.

The Spurs’ organization did very well to get some value back in trading away a superstar, which is difficult to do in today’s NBA.

It looks like the move has worked out for both teams early on this season.

San Antonio is off to a hot start thanks to DeMar DeRozan carrying their offense, and the Raptors currently have the best record in the East after retooling their team around Kawhi.

Let’s dive deeper into DeRozan and Kawhi’s early season performance as well as the other pieces of this blockbuster deal:

Next: DeMar DeRozan

SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 3: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans on November 3, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 3: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans on November 3, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

DeMar DeRozan

We’ve discussed at length how incredible DeRozan has been thus far as he won our October Player of the Month award and his efficiency was mentioned in our three most interesting stats of the month.

But I don’t think Spurs fans will soon get tired of reading about his success.

DeRozan currently ranks seventh in the league in points per game (27.3), and he’s been a dynamite distributor as well dishing 6.7 assists per game (tied for 14th in the NBA).

Related Story. DeMar DeRozan is in a perfect situation

The four-time All-Star has always been knocked for his offensive inefficiency, but he has career-highs in true shooting percentage (58.4%) and player efficiency rating (24.7) this year in San Antonio while maintaining a usage rate of 30.1%, which ranks 14th in the league.

He hasn’t been noticeably awful on the defensive end, which is an improvement over his time in Toronto. And I’d expect him to get better in that aspect as he continues to learn Gregg Popovich’s scheme.

Spurs fans couldn’t have asked for much more from DeMar DeRozan so far this season as he’s led San Antonio to a 6-3 record.

Next: Kawhi Leonard

TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on October 30, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on October 30, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard

Raptors fans are just as happy about the performance of their new All-NBA player.

Toronto has rested Kawhi in a few games to start the season for precautionary reasons, but he’s been incredible in the seven games he’s played.

The Raptors are 7-0 when he starts as he’s scoring 26.1 points per game with 7.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. His efficiency numbers compliment his box score statistics with a player efficiency rating of 26.7 and a true shooting percentage of 60.6%.

Related Story. A list of Kawhi Leonard’s accolades

Kawhi has also returned to form on the defensive end of the floor with 2 steals per game.

The Raptors will need to sign him to a contract extension for this trade to be considered a success, but he’s looked like prime Kawhi right away this season.

Next: Other pieces of the trade

SAN ANTONIO,TX – NOVEMBER 4: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic tries to tie up Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on November 4 , 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX – NOVEMBER 4: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic tries to tie up Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on November 4 , 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Other pieces of the trade

The most disappointing part of this deal has been the performance of Jakob Poeltl.

He has recently fallen out of the ration after beginning the season as the starting center. It’s become clear that Pop does not trust Poeltl as he continues to learn the system.

Poeltl still has plenty of time to develop and I think he will become a solid player again by season’s end, but there’s no denying that the early returns have been subpar

On the other hand, Danny Green has played very well for Toronto as he’s scoring 10.8 points per game while hitting 48.3% of his threes, and he’s continued to be a lockdown defender with 2.1 combined steals and blocks per night.

Spurs: Three breakout players for 2018-19. Related Story

Green has been a valuable piece of the Raptors’ hot start, and they love the versatility he’s brought to their team.

With Toronto’s 9-1 record, it’s a pretty safe assumption that their 2019 first round pick will indeed be sent to San Antonio as it probably won’t fall in the top 20 of this year’s draft.

The Spurs have a long history of hitting on draft picks late in the first round, so that could be an extremely valuable part of this trade.

Next: Conclusion

TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 8: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors shoots against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 8: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors shoots against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs on February 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

Conclusion

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I think both teams are really happy with the early results of the trade.

San Antonio was forced to trade away Kawhi after their relationship had become toxic, and they were able to acquire an All-NBA player who is performing at a high level along with a first round pick and a promising young center.

The Raptors needed to shake things up after some playoff disappointments, and Kawhi has been everything they dreamed he would be while Danny Green has been a really solid contributor as well.

As I said earlier, Kawhi’s decision this offseason will determine whether this trade was a good move for Toronto. But even if he leaves next July, they’ve become an Eastern Conference contender with more upside than they had with DeMar DeRozan.

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Next. Spurs: 3 Players that should be getting more minutes

Considering the circumstances, I’d consider this trade a rare win-win.

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