Since the bad blood between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs organization surfaced around January, the entire NBA world had their eyes laid on the drama that gyrated around the franchise. From Kawhi refusing to return to the team inspite of getting a clean chit from the Spurs doctors to Tony Parker taking a jab at Leonard, every act raised speculations on the Kawhi-Spurs relationship. It was plain as a pikestaff that Kawhi & the Spurs were parting ways this summer, what remained to be seen was which station was the Kawhi train headed to.
And well, now we know it’s the Toronto Raptors. A team, we’d have least expected to pull this trade. Shortly after Casey’s firing, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said roster changes could be afoot for the team. But not in their wildest dreams would someone have expected DeRozan to be a part of a trade package. The four time All-star & Raptors franchise player who was apparently promised, he was off-limits on any trade talks felt betrayed by the Raptors, as he took to Instagram to post a story there that read:
“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out for a quick bit of nothing … Soon you’ll understand … Don’t disturb.”
Just two years ago, Demar had a choice to make : either stay with the Raptors who drafted him ninth overall in 2009 and be their franchise player or flirt with other suitors like the Lakers, who were hoping to lure him south of the border. He chose the former, agreeing to a 5-year deal with the Raptors which spoke everything about his commitment to the franchise. The raptors returned his loyalty by trading him in the middle of his contract in exchange for a one year rental in Kawhi. Kawhi, who would be entering free agency in 2019, has his heart set on LA and that is where he was willing to be traded this off-season. But the Spurs had something else for him in find as they sent him all the way across the border along with the Spurs elite defender Danny green in exchange for DeRozan, backup Centre Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first round pick.
The Spurs who were losing Kawhi regardless in free agency next year, pulled a big W with this trade as they not only occupied a veteran All-star to keep the momentum going but also secured the teams future in procuring a protected first round pick. Sadly, the same could not be said about the Raptors moves as Kawhi who is coming fresh off a quad injury rehab is yet to take a physical for the Raptors and if that’s not daunting enough, Kawhi, who would be a free agent next season, is determined to sign with an LA team. The only scenarios where the Raptors win this trade is : Either they convince Kawhi to re-sign an extension next season ; which looks highly unlikely as of now or they go all the way through to win a championship this season ; which is beyond their wildest dreams. There’s no uncertainty about Kawhi’s impact on the court as a player but even a fully healthy Kawhi is not intimidating enough to beat a 5 All-Star starters Warriors or a LeBron-Rondo pairup in LA.
With a ceiling that reaches not far beyond the NBA Finals and a star player who have no plans to stick around, it would be interesting to see where the Raptors gamble takes the future of the franchise to.