Spurs have agree to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, league sources tell ESPN. Trade call with league office is starting shortly.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2018
The Toronto Raptors waited like a lion stalking a gazelle in the Serengeti. While everyone was fapping over draft picks playing in the Summer League and throwing a dumb amount of money at Doug McDermott, the Raptors were nowhere to be seen in the headlines.
And then the Raptors emerged from the shadows when everyone thought the NBA offseason was finished to snatch up the third best player in the NBA. Will Kawhi go to the Lakers? Will Kawhi go to the Sixers? Will go to the Celtics?
Laugh out loud.
The Raptors acquiring Kawhi Leonard almost guarantees them their franchise’s first ever trip to the NBA Finals. Kawhi is that good. At his peak, he can drop 30 points on any given night while simultaneously being the best defender on the floor.
Last season, the Raptors were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and finished with the best record in team history. Demar DeRozan started the All-Star game and finished All-NBA second team. He was one of the top 5 guards in the entire NBA. Dope.
Buuuut then they walked into the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs where LeBron James devoured their heads like a praying mantis. It was a sweep in the most hilarious fashion considering it was the second straight season that LeBron swept these guys out of the postseason.
The Raptors then fired their head coach Dwane Casey, who would later go onto win the Coach of the Year award and they replaced him with Nick Nurse, who has coached a grand total of zero NBA teams in the past.
Prior to this huge trade, it was very clear that the Raptors hit their ceiling last season and Boston and Philadelphia would lap them next year. The Celtics have Gordon Hayward coming back and the 76ers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid coming back one year older and better. No one on planet Earth thought Toronto would make it out of the Eastern Conference.
Enter Kawhi Leonard.
Demar DeRozan is a great scorer and if he played in 2002, he’d be an MVP candidate. That midrange jumper is a problem for defenses but it’s 2018 and analytically, midrange jumpers are the lowest percentage shot but Derozan refuses to simply step back 5-feet and shoot a 3-pointer and that’s probably due to the fact that he’s a career 28% shooter from the 3-point line. Kawhi Leonard is a 38% shooter.
DeRozan also has no idea how to play defense and that could be a result of coaching but he’s out there on skates when he tries to defend anyone with any sort of handle. Kawhi Leonard is a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. Leonard is as good as what DeRozan is good at and he’s one of the best at everything that DeRozan is bad at.
So if the Raptors were the No. 1 seed with DeRozan then they could easily end up finishing the 2018-19 season with the best win-loss record in the entire NBA. They also managed to give nothing up for him.
Jakob Poeltl is a fine rotation player or whatever. I get the feeling that Toronto will be able to replace his 18 minutes and 7 points a game. Nick Nurse might go out there and fill those minutes. It won’t even matter because Leonard will be doing literally everything out there.
Somehow they didn’t have to give up their 2017 first round pick, OG Anunoby, who is physically ready to become the next Jaylen Brown or maybe even transform into a Paul George-esque player. The Raptors led the league in bench scoring and only gave up Poeltl. What a heist.
The Raptors also gave up a protected 2019 1st round draft pick that is protected 1-20 which means if the Raptors end up struggling and get a draft pick between picks 1 through 20 then they keep the draft pick and the Spurs instead would get two second-round picks so, in a way, the Raptors didn’t even really have to give up a draft pick for the third best player in the NBA.
With LeBron James in Los Angeles with his best buddy Lance Stephenson, Kawhi moves to the Eastern Conference and immediately becomes the best player in the conference.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is great but still has plenty of holes in his game and his big accomplishment is that year after year he leads his team in every statistical category but I think that says less about how great Giannis is and more about how bad the Bucks roster is.
Oh, the Raptors also got Danny Green or whatever so that’s something. That’ll be fun to watch Kyrie Irving cross up Green in the playoffs. That’s another reason to be excited I reckon.
But what’s even more important for Toronto is that after getting run out of the gym annually, they can quietly rebuild their entire team while not only remaining relevant but also competing for a title. Demar DeRozan makes $27 million a year for the next 3 years which took away any of the Raptors flexibility to make any real roster changes.
Even if Kawhi Leonard leaves after the season to go play in Los Angeles, the Raptors won’t even care. All of a sudden they enter the next summer with a monster contract off their books coming off a deep playoff run. There is no better asset for an NBA team than cap room. This is the perfect situation to be in.
The Toronto Raptors won the offseason.
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