The Raptors being involved in this trade is a sign to Raptors fans that a total rebuild is on the horizon. It’s been known all off-season that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio so that he could play for a team in Los Angeles. Not only did he want to be in Los Angeles but, those are the only teams he would sign long-term contracts with.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
How the Toronto Raptors Trade For Kawhi Leonard Signals Towards a Rebuild
Instead, Toronto ignored both of those stipulations and traded for Leonard anyway. Acquiring Leonard is great on the surface, but his lack of commitment to stay and what Toronto gave up is the problem. Toronto traded their franchise player in DeRozan over starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who often struggles in the playoffs. DeRozan was the one player on their roster who should have been considered untouchable in trade talks. Elite wing players are the key to winning championships in today’s NBA. The tandem of DeRozan and Leonard would have made Toronto true contenders in the East.
Now, after this Leonard trade, the Raptors are not true contenders in the East. Boston and Philadelphia are both still clearly better than Toronto. Washington, Milwaukee and Indiana could all still push or even upset Toronto in a seven-game playoff series. With most likely an early playoff exit, what reason would Leonard re-sign in Toronto long-term?
The Raptors may not reap any benefits
So, when we hit the 2019 off-season, Toronto would have lost DeRozan and likely both players they received from this trade, Leonard and Danny Green. The next step would be to start the rebuild by getting rid of the big contracts of Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. Having cap space, young players and draft picks are all factors to starting a good rebuild. Trading these three players soon could give Toronto wiggle room to rebuild come the 2019 offseason.
Changes were bound to come in Toronto after multiple seasons of letdowns in the playoffs. Firing coach of the year Dwane Casey, seemed to be the only change coming. Clearly general manager Masai Ujiri also wanted to make a major roster change to see if that can get Toronto over the hump in the East. In the short-term, Toronto will be competitive, but in the long-term a rebuild inevitable.
TREVISO, ITALY – JUNE 07: Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors attends the adidas EuroCamp at La Ghirada sports center on June 7, 2015 in Treviso, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images)