Raptors Make Bold Move Acquiring Kawhi Leonard, Shipping Demar DeRozan to San Antonio.
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The Raptors made a huge trade with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. Sending the NBA world into a frenzy. The Raptors traded fan favourite Demar DeRozan , young centre Jakob Poeltl and a protected first round pick to San Antonio for Danny Green and former all-star Kawhi Leonard. For the past week rumours ran rampant on a possible Kawhi Leonard trade. The Raptors became a name that was gaining steam on acquiring the Klaw, as It became clear they wanted Leonard.
Demar DeRozan has been the face of the Raptors franchise for a number of years. DeRozan's loyalty, love for the city and the organization hasn’t been matched by previous superstars dawning the Raptors colours. With past players like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh leaving town earlier than expected, DeRozan never wanted to leave, his goal was to always to win a championship here in Toronto. But past playoff performances hurt DeRozan. Despite exceeding expectations becoming a 4 time all star. His time in Toronto seemed to be nearing an end. With his struggles from the 3-point line and his lack of defensive prowess proved DeRozen couldn't be a number one guy. He can be a good second in command but not the top dog on a contending team. It’s tough to see him being traded because he meant so much to the team. The way he embraced the city and called it home makes the trade even more heartbreaking if your rooting for the Raptors. Demar’s ceiling might not go any higher and the Raptors felt they couldn’t go any further with Demar DeRozan leading the charge. A good player but not a great player, there’s no doubt Demar is the best player in the teams history and should one day get his jersey retired by the club.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. A monster at times that has become a big player in key situations if healthy. Kawhi has showen that he can be the best player on the court and in the playoffs. In 2014, at the age of 23, Leonard put on the show against Lebron and the big 3 of the Miami Heat. Winning the NBA championship and playoff MVP, Kawhi became a star. His presence on the floor creates so many problems for his opponents, and when healthy he’s a player that is hard to stop. This past year though problems arose internally with the Spurs organization. Kawhi sprained his left ankle in the playoffs last year, sidelining him for the last 5 playoff games of the series and saw the Spurs get knocked out by the Golden State Warriors. A quad injury forced Kawhi to play only nine games this past season, causing an unmendable rift between him and the Spurs organization. Cleared by Spurs team doctors Kawhi remained on the the injury report, with no trust in the teams medical staff, his camp was vying for a different opinion. At one point reports came out the Spurs orchestrated a players only meeting with Kawhi about coming back and playing to help the team’s postseason run. Kawhi didn’t comeback missing the rest of the season and the entire postseason. His future in San Antonio was no more and he wanted to leave the Spurs and coach Pop behind.
So the big question is who won this trade?
The Raptors won in a landslide. It’s not even close. What makes this intriguing is that Masai Ujiri didn’t give up much for Kawhi. Not giving up future talent like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam was genius. Leonard might not want to play here and will probably leave for free agency next season, but there’s a chance the Raptors brass can con him into staying. It’s not like the Raptors are a terrible team, they were first in the East last season. Look at Paul George. George was only going to be in OKC for a season after he got traded from Indiana, then go to free agency to join Lebron on the Lakers. Instead George decided to stay and signed a long-term deal to stay in Oklahoma City. There’s enough time for the Raptors to try and convince Kawhi to stay in Toronto and sign a max deal. Health is another question mark. Can Kawhi go back and be the force he was before? He could be. Who knows Kawhi could be healthy right now and just was fed up. If Kawhi can rebuild his reputation and get his attitude right like a true professional the Raptors will be hard to stop in the Eastern conference. There’s no doubt that Kawhi brings more to the table, but is Ujiri risking his job pulling off this trade? Yes of course, but he needs too the Raptors can’t be stuck in limbo. With Lebron going to the West this is the perfect time to do this move. Even for one season the Raptors are showing they’re still serious about contending for a championship. It’s a move Ujiri could lose his job for if it fails to pan out, but a risk that could pay dividends for him and the team.
Demar leaving the Raptor’s will leave a big hole in the city’s heart, but as we say goodbye to an old friend it is time to welcome Kawhi to Toronto. A new era in Toronto has begun. Lets hope he stays.