On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs traded All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard and swingman Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first-round pick. After months of drama between the Spurs and Leonard, both sides can finally rest as they begin a new chapter. Who were the winners and losers of this franchise-altering trade? Let’s examine the pieces.
The Kawhi Leonard Trade: Winners and Losers
Although DeRozan is crushed that the Raptors decided to part ways with him after so many years, he emerges as the biggest winner. He joins another winning organization which has a fantastic coach in Gregg Popovich. DeRozan’s game will be elevated next season. He will be the No. 1 option. He’ll be motivated to prove the Raptors wrong and continue the long, winning tradition of the Spurs. DeRozan could be headed for an MVP-caliber season in San Antonio.
The Raptors come off as the bad guys in this trade. They were willing to give up DeRozan, who gave the organization years of hard work and loyalty, for Leonard. However, they could end up winners in the long run. The Raptors could flip Leonard and add a bevy of talent — more than they gave up for him. Even if they do not trade him, if Leonard returns to form next season, the Raptors could break through the Eastern Conference and make it to the NBA Finals. If Leonard leaves in free agency, as he reportedly plans to, Toronto can then begin a rebuild that many expected to come by 2020 anyway. In 2020, the contracts of Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas all expire.
Leonard was able to force the Spurs’ hand. However, he did not end up on the team of his choice. Leonard is now a Raptor. Reports are swirling that he does not want to play for the Raptors and is willing to sit out next season. Those reports and the drama with the Spurs are making Leonard look like a selfish diva. Leonard is looking for a max contract in 2019. If he does not play next season or if he plays poorly, he could lose out on millions of dollars. Leonard has a lot to lose within the next year.
San Antonio Spurs’ Playoff Streak
The Spurs have lost many key players over the last few years and Leonard is the icing on the cake. Losing Leonard could put their playoff streak in jeopardy. Although DeRozan is an All-Star player, he is not on the same level as a healthy Leonard. For the first time, a dark cloud looms over the Spurs’ organization. It seems that they are in rebuilding mode. We could be witnessing the fall of a dynasty.
CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 23: Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio Spurs passing the Charlotte Hornets’ defense during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, USA on November 23, 2016. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)