Kawhi Leonard is no longer a Spur. The face and the future of San Antonio is now a member of the North. Sorry Laker fans, LeBron Fans, Celtic Fans, 76er’s Fans and Clipper Fans Mr. Leonard will not be with your team in the 2018 – 2019 season (barring a trade at the deadline).
The season-long drama that was Popovich vs the Klaw has come to the close and I’m not sure there was a winner. Who knew that a quad injury could change the fate of the once dominant Spurs? Who knew that the Raptors would resign DeMar DeRozan and then trade him days later? First, let’s look at what trade actually entails:
Official: We’ve acquired Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl & a 2019 protected first-round draft pick.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 18, 2018
What does this mean for the Raptors, Spurs, Lakers and the rest of the league?
Impact on the Toronto Raptors:
The #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors, get an upgrade with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. That is if he actually plays for the team but we will work on the assumption that he will report and actually play for the Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
Pound for pound, Kawhi is an upgrade in every aspect over DeMar DeRozan.
- Defense – Advantage Kawhi
- Outside Shooting – Advantage Kawhi
- Mid-Range Game – Advantage Kawhi
- Finishing: Advantage Kawhi
- Playmaking: Push
- Athleticism: Kawhi
The Raptors goal is to make the NBA Finals and try to pull an OKC and convince Kawhi, much like Paul George, that the North could be your new home. The King is dead, in the East, and now it is a battle royale for the chance to face the Warriors in the Finals. Adding a Top 5 player in the League for a Top 15 – 20 player has to make your team better. You either have the best or the 2nd best player in the East, which was necessary with the emergence of “The Process” in Philadelphia and the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The Raptors got better, whether that is enough to get them to the finals remains to be seen. The true test will be at the end of the season, keeping Kawhi is the ultimate goal. Drake if you are reading this it’s time to pull out all the stops to keep him in the 6.
Impact on the San Antonio Spurs:
San Antonio is the loser in this trade, there are no two ways to look at it. DeMar DeRozan does not want to play for the Spurs and he is not the same caliber as the Klaw. Although, maybe, DeMar works better with LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs are better than before chemistry wise. The only win I see for the Spurs is that the distraction is now gone. The Spurs have lost defense and outside shooting but have gained some stability and added playing time for their rookie prospect Lonnie Walker IV. It is reasonable to conclude that Tony Parker would not have signed in Charlotte if not for the controversy that was the Kawhi “misdiagnosis”. The Spurs went from being a top 4 team in the west before the Kawhi injury to a middling team in the stacked Western Conference. Lonnie Walker is the biggest wild card in the rebuild/reload scenario for the Spurs. If he can turn in to Kawhi Lite as some have described him then the future of the team is bright but even that glowing hope is dimmed by the shadow cast by the elite teams in the west.
Impact on the Los Angeles Lakers:
In my opinion, this is actually a win for the Lakers. The Spurs were demanding everything but the kitchen sink from the Lakers in return for Kawhi.
According to NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon, the Spurs were as looking for a deal as follows:
“From what I hear they’re asking a lot. My sources are saying Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two firsts and two pick swaps… They’re just saying give us everything.”
The Lakers can still get Kawhi next offseason and keep their young nucleus around LeBron. While this does not excite the LA-Bron faithful because it means having a “wasted season”, the possibility of this team up with the King, the Klaw, and young complimentary players should be seen as a win-win situation. The young players get to acclimate with LeBron and get meaningful playing time as secondary scoring options before deferring to two Top 5 players the following season. Even if the Lakers overachieve they could make a low-cost move to try and acquire Kawhi midseason if they really wanted to go all in this season. All in all, Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and LeBron James were saved from themselves. Their only worry is that they might get left at the altar again like Paul George did.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 11, 2017
Impact on the Rest of the NBA:
How does the swap of DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard the NBA landscape? The top 5 teams next year in the East would be the Celtics, the Raptors, the 76ers, the Wizards and the Pacers. While the Raptors drop down a place from where they finished last year it would appear that they now have a more consistent option in the playoffs than what they had in the past. The Celtics are the clear favorites in the East and the others are jockeying for position after the death of the Cavaliers franchise. The Wizards and their signing of Dwight Howard is a boom or bust acquisition hoping to catapult them and a healthy John Wall into the upper echelon of the East. The questions marks are whether or not “The Process” continues in Philadelphia? Can Markelle Fultz become the player who he appeared to be coming out of college and can Ben Simmons create some kind of offense outside of 15ft? The Pacers are wondering if Victor Oladipo can repeat his breakout performance last year and if the loss of Lance Stephenson will be a problem or a case of addition by subtraction?
The West remains pretty much the same as before. The Warriors stand high up on the mountaintop with the other teams trying to climb up. The Rockets lost some key components but they are trying to pick up Carmelo Anthony as the 3rd star for their squad. The Lakers are looking to make real noise in the 2-4 years of LeBron’s contract and the Thunder are hoping the exit of Carmelo and the return of Andre Roberson will be enough to carry them to the Western Conference finals and a shot at taking down the Champs.
Comment Below Your Thoughts On The Trade and Its Impact.