Yep, it’s really happening. Kawhi Leonard, welcome to the 6. Demar DeRozan, welcome to Alamo City.
Spurs have agree to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, league sources tell ESPN. Trade call with league office is starting shortly.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2018
Spurs fans? Not happy. Raptors fans? Not happy. Kawhi? Doesn’t want to play in Toronto. Demar? Left feeling backstabbed and betrayed.
How many trades can you recall where both of primary players involved are furious with the move? Kawhi Leonard asked to go home. Not out of the country. DeMar DeRozan has never wanted to leave Toronto.
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) July 18, 2018
You can sort of make some sense of the trade from both perspectives. For Toronto, a new look to the team seemed imminent. After 5 years in a row of reaching the playoffs but failing to reach the Finals, Masai Ujiri realized that there needed to be change. Kawhi is undoubtedly a better player when healthy, and both he and Danny Green bring a better defensive presence to the otherwise lacking team.
In a weak Eastern Conference, on a team that’s ultimately headed towards a major rebuild, a one year rental of a top 5 player in basketball can make sense, assuming you finally make the Finals. Kawhi is a much-needed consistent playoff performer, something both DeRozan and Lowry critically aren’t.
For San Antonio, this is Popovich’s “Get Out Of Rebuilding Free” card. Pop only has so many more years before the retirement bus pulls into the AT&T Center, and the Spurs are much too talented and proud of an organization to hit the rebuild button. Leonard was acting like a prima donna, making his own situation worse and worse by refusing to negotiate and rumoredly threatening to not play. This could possibly be the best the Spurs could get, a top 20, arguably 15, player still in his prime locked down for the next 2 seasons, that secures them as a playoff team for the next 2 seasons.
Ultimately though, the glass is half empty in most everyone’s eyes. Kawhi wants to be in LA, not Toronto. His health is still in question (despite now playing a country with free health care). Are the Raptors getting the 2x DPOY and Finals MVP who was able to back his next-level defense with 25.5 PPG? Or are they getting the prima donna who shot just .314% from 3pt range in just 9 games last year? Either way, they’re getting a phlegmatic player whose all but guaranteed to leave after his one year sentencing.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
Demar took to social media leaving a vague but painful response to being traded:
“Told one thing & outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing…”
Demar deserves nothing but love and respect from fans. DeRozan became one of if not THE greatest Raptor in franchise history. He’s played the most games and scored the most points of any Raptor ever, and has stuck with Toronto through the good and the bad, bringing in a new wave of fan support and popularity among the NBA. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to think he’d have been treated with the same from his organization. Instead, he was reportedly lied to and traded away for a rental.
San Antonio fans are upset because frankly, they could have gotten a lot more for someone whose been recognized as a top 3 player in the NBA. Sure, Demar could improve under Popovich and will undoubtedly keep them as a playoff team, but at the end of the day, Kawhi could have rebuilt this team’s future.
Outside of Demar, Jakob Poeltl doesn’t have a high ceiling compared to guys like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, let alone ones outside of Toronto such as Kuzma, Brown, or Fultz. Not to mention the possibility of trading for high draft picks instead of the protected one they received that will likely amount to nothing.
The Spurs have never been okay settling for mediocrity, so why all of a sudden is that the case? Fans are angry about it, and they have the right to be. The Western Conference is beyond stacked, so trading Kawhi was the opportunity to either get ahead on a rebuild or go all in to compete with the Rockets and Warriors. Trading for DeRozan was a pathetic “in the middle” move, one that will likely be regretted in future years.
It’ll be interesting to see how these players wind up in a few years. Maybe Toronto will somehow resign The Claw, or maybe come February Kawhi will be wearing a completely new jersey. It’s possible that DeRozan will enjoy his time in San Antonio, or also possible that he declines his 2020-21 player option and opts for free agency.
Only time will tell, but for now, things are how they are, and no one’s all that happy about it.