Raptors and Spurs Swap Stars, but Who Won?

A blockbuster deal. Before getting into the trade analysis, I would like to say, growing up and living as a Toronto Raptors my entire life, I could not be more heartbroken. Kawhi is a solid player to say the least, and without a doubt, DeRozan has shown loyalty to a team nobody really takes seriously in free agency. As history has shown, loyalty isn’t the most common trait in the NBA.

Toronto’s biggest free agency signing in recent years was DeMarre Carroll, and look how that situation turned out. Toronto had to give away their 2018 first and second round picks to Brooklyn just to take on his contract. DeMar was, and forever will be a legend in Toronto, and is widely considered as the greatest Raptor of all-time.

Any Raptors fan knows, with DeMar growing up in Compton, he was always a big fan of Kobe Bryant. DeMar was looking to follow in Kobe’s footsteps. What Kobe was to LA, DeMar wanted to be with Toronto. He was loyal to Toronto, passing up the opportunity to sign with his hometown Lakers to stay with the Raptors. It is after all a business, but for all of the people who had a problem with Kevin Durant not being loyal to Oklahoma City, what happens when the team isn’t loyal to the player? It goes both ways. 

Now for the promised trade analysis. Usually the outcome in a basketball trade is whoever is gets the best player wins the deal (e.g Kyrie Irving trade). However, what happens when the best player has “no desire” to play in the city he’s getting traded to? What if he only has one year left on his deal? Lastly, what if you’re giving away your franchise player to get that guy? These are the big questions that raise a lot of doubt.

Kawhi Leonard is a superstar, a two-way force, and a cornerstone player for any championship team, but the Raptors are likely getting a one-year rental in Leonard, who is likely bound for the Los Angeles Lakers after his contract is up this year. Of course, the goal of any trade is to get better, but did the Raptors get better? Yes, but likely not good enough.

Can Toronto’s (now) dynamic duo of Kyle Lowry and Leonard, along with supporting pieces, beat a team of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? Or how about the dynamic duo of the MVP James Harden and Chris Paul? What about Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins? Probably not.

So along with the “getting better” strategy, there is also a goal to win championships. The Raptors may be “closer” to winning a championship now with Leonard, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that much. Close doesn’t get it done in this league or any other professional sports league. Although I understand why some people are saying this is a win for the Raptors, this trade still won’t bring them a championship. There’s no guarantee that they can get out of the Eastern Conference, let alone beat one of the powerhouse teams in the Western Conference.

The San Antonio Spurs are getting a very talented mid-range shooter in DeMar DeRozan, and a big young European center in Jakob Poeltl (you’re welcome Gregg Popovich), along with a protected first-round pick. They’re getting a bunch of great pieces, and if they are looking at a rebuild eventually, they should get a good amount of picks/players for LaMarcus Aldridge and now, DeRozan. If Kawhi leaves the Raptors after this year, Toronto has lost DeMar and Kawhi for virtually nothing, and at that point, a rebuild may be unavoidable. They may soon regret this deal.

If the Toronto Raptors can somehow convince Kawhi Leonard to sign a multi-year deal in Toronto, there is little doubt that Toronto won this trade. You have a better chance of LeBron playing for the Knicks at this point. As of right now, Toronto got better, but at the cost of their beloved star. 

Photo: Getty Images

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