Toronto will be in for a regression in the near future
I think we can all agree that no one saw this trade coming. It started to seem as though Kawhi would just have to sit out the year and wait to become a free agent, but here we are. The trade has just been absolute confusion and disrespect on both ends of the spectrum. Sure, the Spurs accommodated Kawhi’s request to be traded, but it was not to a team that he desired. Neither Kawhi nor the Spurs organization handled the situation properly, and there will always be bad blood there. The real villain in this deal, however, is the Raptors front office. Going behind DeMar DeRozan’s back and shipping him out with nothing but one of those degrading tweets saying “Thank you (insert player name).”
DeMar DeRozan is an excellent basketball player and an even more excellent person. The fact that the Raptors did this to one of the most loyal players in the league is ludicrous. Especially since DeRozan has been apart of the organization since he came into the league in 2009. To make it even worse, DeRozan was traded for a player who has one year left on his contract and may not even stay in Toronto long term. So many damn things morally wrong with this trade.
I get it though. I really do. The Spurs got the best deal they could find compared to losing him next summer in free agency. In reality they wanted a star player, a young player, and a pick for Kawhi and they got exactly that. For the Raptors, they have struggled to succeed in the playoffs. Recently with the firing of Dwayne Casey, and now this trade for Kawhi Leonard, they are clearly trying to push forward in their chase for a title. They believe that Kawhi will help get them over the hump, and we have to respect them for that.
The Raptors Take a Huge Risk
But I don’t. I think this was a gigantic risk for a franchise that breeds loyalty. This was an unpopular move amongst the fanbase. Not simply because they traded a player away, but because they had grown to love that player. Sure, the team acquired the best two-way player in the league, but at what cost? This is a BIG gamble for a team that is desperate for playoff success. What if Kawhi gets hurt again? What if the team doesn’t mesh? What if Kawhi leaves after next year? So many questions need to be answered, and the fan base is waiting.
I believe the Spurs won this deal by a long shot. They are slowly beginning to rebuild their roster, and the pieces they acquired in this deal will help them along. DeRozan will provide the team with a seasoned veteran who hasn’t averaged less than 20 PPG since 2013. Jakob Poeltl is a young big man who was overshadowed by Jonas Valanciunas this past season. He has great court vision and passing for a big man, and with work his inside game could be tapped to it’s full potential under Gregg Popovich. And the 2019 protected first round pick is to sweeten the pot.
The postseason woes will continue for the Raptors. They finished 1st in the East this past season, but that will not happen again. Leonard will be able to fill the hole that DeRozan will leave behind. He is of course a better all around player, however, the Raptors are no super-team. In fact, they are far from it. Everyone forgets that when the Raptors need Kyle Lowry, he always seems to disappear on the court in the playoffs. Other than Kawhi, no one on the Raptors roster is capable of taking over a game. With teams like Boston and Philly, who both have multiple stars capable of dominating the court, the Raptors just will not be able to contend.
Kawhi Leonard will most likely bolt from Toronto the minute the clock strikes midnight on free agency eve next summer, and the Raptors will take some heat for it. Essentially trading for a year of mediocrity once again will greatly hurt the franchise, and they may need to look at blowing it all up in the future. The Raptors are taking a big risk with this trade, let’s just hope for their sakes it goes the way they plan.