Well, Kawhi Leonard has been traded. I guess the Spurs did not want to call his bluff, so they let him "free" of the team that he has grown so mad at over the past year. They kind of gave him what he wanted, in a way. He did not want to be a Spur, he did not trust them, and he had threatened to sit out the whole season if not traded.
But, when I say kind of what he wanted, the Spurs did stick it to him a little bit on his way out. It was made very, very clear that Kawhi wanted to be in LA, and to a lesser extent, Philly. But, one thing was for sure, and that was that he wanted out of San Antonio. Well, he got his wish, but he did not get traded to a team that he wants to play for. In fact, he got traded to a team where he has made it very clear, he has no intention of staying with. The team, the Toronto Raptors.
This is crazier to me than Paul George going to OKC last year. Until very, very recent, the Raptors were not even on the radar. That was the same with George and OKC last year, but the Thunder at least had Westbrook as a selling point to George. The Raptors, well they traded away their best asset for what is going to most likely be one disgruntled year of Kawhi. The Raptors sent DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2021 first round pick to the Spurs for Kawhi and Danny Green.
Now, just looking at this from a pure basketball stand point, I have no idea who won this trade. Yes, Kawhi got out, but he is going to Toronto, and the Raptors traded DeRozan for him. You may say, well they still have Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valenciunas and OG Anunoby, among others. Well, Lowry is as big a playoff choker as James Harden, if not worse, Valenciunas' game is not modern, and Anunoby is still incredibly raw. And the addition of Danny Green is solid, but he is not the three and D guy he used to be. In fact, his three point shooting continues to deteriorate. He is still a good defender, but I'd rather have DeRozan simply for scoring ability.
That being said, the Raptors are in the East, and, if Kawhi is healthy, and decides he needs to have a big year to get a big deal, they could be a top three seed. But, they were the top seed last year. Why would this trade put them over the top? How does this make them any better? They were already the best by record last year. Looking at the Raptors now, sure, they got Kawhi, and Green is still a player, and I like Lowry, Anunoby and Serge Ibaka, are they truly any better than a healthy Celtics team, or the 76ers still? I don't know. I say no if Kawhi plays disgruntled and whines all year. His presence won't matter much. If he fully commits and plays as well as he did 2 years ago, they will be a title contender. Yet, I still like a healthy Celtics team, and I love the 76ers. This trade, for me, does not make the Raptors the favorite in the East, and this whole ordeal has really soured my love and adoration for Kawhi Leonard, the basketball player. He is becoming more and more diva like with each passing day.
From the Spurs prospective, I'm not a big fan of this deal either. First off, even with Kawhi, they were no better than a 3 or 4 seed in the West. The Rockets, maybe the Jazz, and most definitely the Warriors were already better. With DeRozan, I see much of the same, except, he doesn't play defense like a healthy Kawhi does. In fact, DeRozan plays no defense whatsoever. As I said, he is a very good, sometimes great, scorer. But, that is about it with DeRozan. His three point shooting has gotten better, and he is great driving to the hoop, but again, I just cannot shake his horrendous defense. He also has never really done anything on the big stage, and Kawhi is a Finals MVP. As for Poeltl, he is just a raw, plodding big man. I know he is still young, but he has shown little to nothing in his first couple years in the league. Sure, he can step out and shoot the three a bit, and he is an okay rebounder and rim protector, but he didn't play all that much behind Valenciunas. I still have no idea what kind of player he can become. I'm sure the Spurs will make good use out of him, they turned guys like Boban Marjonovic and Aaron Baynes and Tiago Splitter into quality NBA players, but time will tell. I think the biggest thing for the Spurs was the future first rounder.
Lets be honest, Kawhi is only going to spend one year in Toronto. I know we all said that about Paul George and OKC last year, but this time I know it is true. He doesn't want to be there, and he will force his way out, and he is an unrestricted free agent after the season. So, with Kawhi gone, Lowry getting older and Anunoby being the only real youth they have on their team, the Raptors will, most likely, be a lottery team come 2020 and 2021. That was what the Spurs wanted. A future pick that they can build around with guys like Dejonte Murray and some unknown dudes they have stashed away on their bench.
For right now, I don't feel like this trade tips the scale for either squad. I think the Raptors will be a contender to come out of the East, if Kawhi feels like playing this year. But, they were supposed contenders last year. And the Spurs, well they play in the West, so they have no shot. The Warriors, Rockets, Jazz, Thunder and even the Pelicans are better in my opinion. This was a "blockbuster" trade, but it seems hollow somehow.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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