Perhaps the last big domino to fall in the NBA offseason has come crumbling down. Kawhi Leonard is no longer a San Antonio Spur. Early this morning a deal was agreed upon to send the superstar to a different team, a different conference, and even a different country. The Toronto Raptors have solidified their place as one of the top three teams in the East by acquiring the young forward along with veteran Danny Green. The Raptors paid a heavy price though, shipping out DeMar DeRozan along with Jacob Poeltl and a 2019 first round pick.
The biggest gamble belongs to Toronto. Kawhi Leonard becomes a free agent at the end of this season, and he has been very vocal about wanting to play in his hometown of Los Angeles. While it is certainly not a guarantee they can retain Leonard, the Raptors hope that a year with the team will have the same effect on Kawhi that Paul George experienced in Oklahoma City when George was very vocal about leaving to go to Los Angeles. Toronto has gone all in on this year, trading DeRozan who had two years and 54.4 million left on his contract.
San Antonio has potentially dodged a bullet. Instead of losing Kawhi for free at the end of the season, they are able to swap him for one of the better young guards in the league. They also sent Danny Green to Toronto in the trade, signaling that they are more concerned with long term success than immediate results. Green had opted into his player option worth $10 million about a month ago.
Toronto’s president of basketball operations Masai Uriji has put himself in a boom or bust position with this move. His future with the organization is directly tied to Kawhi Leonard’s success with the team and to a lesser extent the opportunity to lure perhaps another superstar to Toronto. Uriji made the move away from head coach Duane Casey after he led the team to the best record in the East, and now he will be under similar pressure to turn the team into winners sooner than later.