The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a blockbuster trade that will send 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
San Antonio has agreed 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 beginning momentarily. https://t.co/6DZNdAs8BM
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2018
In return for Leonard and shooting guard Danny Green, the Raptors will send four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, promising big man Jakob Poeltl and a draft pick.
The NBA as a whole probably takes a minor win here, stealing some bluster from a genuinely exciting MLB All-Star Game. But outside of a few headlines, everybody else involved in this major trade is a loser.
For Leonard, his reputation is significantly damaged. There’s just no way around the fact that he pouted his way off a team. Even if Leonard were actually injured for the majority of last season, the optics still paint him as a petulant brat.
From a financial standpoint, Leonard also just lost quite a bit of money. If he were to re-sign for the max with the Raptors, he could ink a five-year, $190 million contract. If he were to sign anywhere else, it would be a four-year, $141 million max deal. Had he stayed put in San Antonio, he would’ve been eligible for a five-year, $221 million “super max” contract. Potentially losing $80 million on his next contract is certainly a big, fat loss for Leonard.
There’s also the small fact that Leonard will have to pay taxes in two different countries for the upcoming season. Nobody wants to do that.
For the Spurs, the team has officially lost some of its mystique and luster. Remember, this is two star players in as many years who have wanted to get out of San Antonio. All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge was able to be convinced to stay. Leonard, obviously, was not.
Even with Leonard, the Spurs were clearly a level below the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. Without him, they fall further back into a bloated Western Conference middle class.
The Spurs also gave up the best player in the trade, typically a strong barometer for who “won” a trade. DeRozan is a fine player, but clearly a tier below Leonard.
For DeRozan himself, he may be in a more stable situation, but was shown just how much loyalty matters in the NBA today. He alluded to as much on his Instagram, which he has since purged all of his posts.
For the Raptors, they’ve taken a monumental risk that is unlikely to pay off. In a nutshell, the Raptors are a franchise that has always struggled to hang on to star players. They just traded the rare star who was willing to commit to them long-term for a player who is almost assuredly leaving next season.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
It’s one thing if the Raptors had a true superstar player that would make it unpalatable to leave, a la the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russel Westbrook. The team doesn’t have that and there’s virtually no reason for Leonard to stick around Toronto for the likes of Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas.
Leonard and his camp have made no secret that they he wants to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. He will be able to do so as an unrestricted free agent as soon as next year.
When the only real winners in a trade are the Los Angeles Lakers, virtually everyone else effectively comes out a loser.
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