NBA

Raptors shock many, acquire Leonard from Spurs

When Toronto Raptors fans went to bed on Tuesday night, they heard their team had put forward a compelling offer for Kawhi Leonard and dreamed that maybe he would eventually join the team, just at what cost. When Raptors fans woke up Wednesday morning, most had wished it never happened as their star they drafted nine years ago, their franchise leader in many categories, DeMar DeRozan was being shipped away.

But when their team hits the court, I am sure they will be happy it happened.

Many were stunned. The Spurs parted ways with Leonard after it seemed for so long like they wouldn’t and Toronto parted ways with a player who wanted nothing more but to remain in a Raptors uniform.

The San Antonio Spurs sent 27-year-old Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick (if it is a top-20 pick the Raptors keep it and the Spurs will receive two second-round picks instead). Yes, that deal happened and is it ever a good one for Toronto.

It was a bittersweet moment for Raptors fans. They were receiving one of the top players in the NBA while giving up someone they saw grow up to be their star on and off the court. What startled fans was the report from ESPN’s Chris Haynes who says Leonard has “no desire” to play for the Toronto Raptors and even went as far as saying he wouldn’t report. Hours after the trade ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Leonard was “warming up to the idea” of playing in Toronto.

Regardless of how he feels about being in Toronto, Leonard will be a big help to the Raptors, maybe even be the difference maker when it comes to making the NBA Finals. In fact, according to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the odds for the Raptors to win the east went from 7-1 to 4-1. While the odds for Toronto to win the championship went from 60-1 to 20-1.

In just over 400 games played in his career while averaging just over 30 minutes a night, Leonard has averaged 16.3 points per game, 2.3 assists per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. It is his defensive play which will make the Raptors more of a threat than they were before.

But the piece many people haven’t talked about is Danny Green. Toronto already had one of – if not the best – benches in the league and adding Green, someone who can come off the bench or even start for this team, is great for Toronto.

Drafted in 2009, Green, 31, has averaged 8.8 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, 1.6 assists per game and just over 25 minutes per game.

With Lebron James out of the eastern conference, it is clear the Raptors are trying to do whatever they can to make the finals. Masai Ujiri clearly meant it when he said everyone on the roster is available – even though he apparently told DeRozan he wouldn’t be dealt. Then there was the firing of Dwayne Casey who would eventually win coach of the year. Clearly, the team had bigger plans.

With one year left on Leonard’s deal with Toronto, he could be a one and done deal. That is of course if Toronto finds a way to keep him there, the same way Paul George remained in OKC after being heavily linked to the Lakers for years.

If there’s one thing that is obvious it is that Masai Ujiri has his work cut out for him. Years ago he convinced Kyle Lowry to stay in Toronto when it looked as if he would walk. If Ujiri is able to talk Leonard into staying longer the future looks bright in Toronto.

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