The Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes is officially over. For now. Pending physicals, particularly of Kawhi, will determine whether the trade officially goes through, but barring a failure of that, the trade appears to be complete in its detail. Toronto will be receiving Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in exchange for Demar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick.
Toronto appear to be taking the biggest gamble, not only with this trade, but so far for their entire offseason in my opinion, because of the firing of the Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey earlier in the offseason. However, based on the past few seasons. It can be viewed as being a necessary risk to take if they believed they had completely run their course with their core. I am of the belief that they should have given it at least one more year with their new head coach before they made a major move like this, especially after the departure of Lebron James from the Eastern Conference. But, I’m not in the front office of the organisation, so I can’t speak for them. This trade by Toronto will help build the belief that there is no loyalty in sports, particularly after hearing recent reports that Derozan was told during Summer League that he would not be traded, only to be traded shortly thereafter. Demar Derozan was one of the most popular and one of the best players to play for the team, therefore, the perception of disloyalty could potentially hurt the Toronto Raptors organisation in the future with negotiations for free agents.
It is a very risky move by Toronto in that sense, but also for the individuals they traded for because both Leonard and Green can become unrestricted free agents following the upcoming season. So, it is very possible that they traded away their star player for one season’s worth of assets. Will it work out? Only time will tell. But, if pre injury Kawhi and a consistent Danny Green shows up in Toronto, it is very possible for the team to make a run at the Eastern Conference championship and be heading to the Finals. I believe that both players will show up to play in a big way with their new teams because they are both in contract years and need to play well to show their worth for their next contract. Whether their game will fit in smoothly with what Toronto have remains to be seen, but that chemistry and fit will determine whether they will remain in Toronto for the long haul. Personally, for Toronto to have a shot at keeping them, especially Kawhi, they will need to at least make an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. If they don’t achieve that, I believe Kawhi will be moving on to a new team following the 2018-2019 season. For the upcoming season, a healthy Kawhi puts Toronto in the top tier of the conference, however, I don’t think he will be able to lead the team beyond the second round of the playoffs and will then leave in free agency where he will enjoy success in LA, either as a Clipper or a Laker.
San Antonio in my opinion, are the winners of this deal because they were able to trade a disgruntled player in Kawhi for another superstar (Demar) plus a good young big (Poeltl) and a first round pick, instead of potentially losing Kawhi for nothing next offseason when he becomes a free agent. Jakob Poeltl is a young big at 22 years old who could develop into a starting calibre centre under the right tutelage which is exactly what he will receive in San Antonio with their great coaching staff and with the veteran bigs he will be playing with in Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. I believe that he will play a key role off the bench in his first year with the team and then, with continued development, eventually be the starting centre for many years upon signing an extension following the expiration of his rookie contract in two years.
Demar Derozan is in his prime at 28 years old and with a great coach in Gregg Popovich, could become an even better player on both ends of the floor. Derozan is already a good defensive player because of his size, length and athleticism, and is a great offensive player, particularly in isolation situations, attacking the rim and in the mid range. However, I believe both aspects of his game can be elevated to an even greater level. Defensively, I think he could look even better than he did in Toronto because of the team defensive schemes he will be a part of where the team will likely remain one of the best in the league. Offensively, with the coaching staff in San Antonio, I believe he will be able to further develop his outside shooting ability, and on top of that, develop his playmaking abilities to a higher level to round out his game and be more efficient. With the additional chip on his shoulder having been traded from Toronto, I believe he will flourish in his role with San Antonio and lead them to a 2 or 3 seed this coming season and achieve great success individually and with the team for many years to come where I think he will be a Spur for the remainder of his career.
– Deejay (The Middle Fro)