San Antonio Spurs: Re-Evaluating the Kawhi Leonard Trade

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 3: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs greets Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors at the end of the game at AT&T Center on January 3, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. 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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 3: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs greets Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors at the end of the game at AT&T Center on January 3, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. 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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green officially leaving Toronto, it’s time to look back on last year’s historic trade with the San Antonio Spurs.

On July 28th of 2018, the San Antonio Spurs sent Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and $5 million to Canada with DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected first round pick arriving in Texas.

The Spurs didn’t have much leverage when this deal was done because everyone in the league knew they had to get rid of Kawhi after his relationship with the organization became toxic.

What revisionist historians will forget is there was no guarantee that Leonard would ever be the same player after the quad injury that created so much strife in San Antonio.

Of course, Kawhi returned to become the best player in the league during the Raptor’s magical run to a championship which will leave Toronto with no regrets as they would make that deal again ten times out of ten.

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However, they will now be forced to rebuild after Kawhi left Toronto to team up with Paul George on the Clippers and Danny Green joined the crosstown Lakers in free agency.

Most of the league assumed Leonard would leave the Raptors for L.A. when the deal went down last summer, but the prospect of staying in Toronto became stronger and stronger as the team moved on in the playoffs.

Ultimately, the Raptors failed to acquire Paul George which sealed the deal for the Clippers when they sent Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and an unprecedented amount of draft picks to OKC for PG13.

The Spurs’ side of the deal looks much better now that we know Kawhi and Green were simply one-year rentals, even though they were the most successful rental package of all-time during their time in Toronto.

San Antonio still has DeMar DeRozan under contract for at least one year as he has a player option to stay with the Spurs for two more seasons if he opts in.

DeRozan had a strong first year in San Antonio scoring 21.2 points per game with career-highs in assists (6.2) and rebounds (6.0).

Even though he still needs to become a more efficient scorer and could use some improvement on the defensive end of the floor, DeRozan’s improved playmaking ability makes him a dangerous offensive player.

The Spurs can choose to continue to build around him with their incredibly deep roster, or they can try to trade him as he’s still a positive asset on his current contract.

Jakob Poeltl is also under contract for one more year, and he became a very important piece for San Antonio down the stretch last season.

He showed growth in Gregg Popovich’s system as the season progressed, and the Austrian center’s game will have plenty of time to develop as he’s just 23 years old.

The Spurs officially completed the trade by selecting Keldon Johnson with the 29th overall pick.

Johnson is a big-bodied wing who can hopefully develop the three-and-D skillset that is so valuable in this league.

While this trade looked like a total fleecing a couple of weeks agao as Kawhi was holding the Finals MVP trophy, the Spurs came away with an All-Star guard, a solid young center with room to grow, and a rookie wing who most pundits expected to go in the top 20 of this year’s draft. And now the Raptors are left without Kawhi and Green on their roster as they try to reset for the next era of Toronto basketball.

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I think both sides of this trade can feel pretty good about how this trade turned out after the events of the last 12 months considering the situation both franchises were in when the deal was done.

If DeRozan and Poeltl take steps forward in year two with the Spurs and Keldon Johnson becomes a key contributor during his career, San Antonio will come out of this trade looking much better than most people thought a year ago.

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