All Losers of the Kawhi Leonard Deal


On Wednesday, it was made official that the San Antonio Spurs have sent Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick. While players on both sides of this deal are less than enthused with the current circumstances, the impact on moving Leonard to the Raptors has proven multiple losing parties. Here are just a few of the countless losing sides from the recent transaction:

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San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs traded away arguably the best two-way player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard, in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, who is under contract for at least through the 2019-2020 season, pending a player option after that select season ends. The fact that San Antonio can take Leonard’s $20 million salary off their shoulders is a positive, but now the front office is forced to pay an unhappy superstar in DeRozan an extra annual salary of $7.7 million in hopes of making a postseason run.

The protected draft pick in 2019 could prove to be worthy down the road, but the Spurs haven’t drafted any “proven” players since George Hill and Goran Dragic in 2008. Even then, neither of those draftees stuck around, as Hill was eventually traded to the Indiana Pacers for Kawhi Leonard, while Goran Dragic was also traded on draft day.

The fact of the matter is that San Antonio had the opportunity to trade with the Los Angeles Lakers or Philadelphia 76ers, both of whom had more valuable pieces to offer than the Toronto Raptors. This was a very large misread for the Spurs, as they were seemingly just doing anything they could to get Leonard as far away as possible.

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Toronto Raptors

The Raptors may have landed Leonard for a year, but at what cost? The small forward never put Toronto anywhere near his list of desired trade locations, and most are writing Leonard off to leave after the upcoming season.

In addition, there was clear displeasure with DeMar DeRozan’s side, as he was committed to the franchise for years to come. After signing a five-year, $139 million extension back in 2016 with the franchise, moving a player of his caliber makes it appear that his $27.7 million salary for the next several years were putting a restriction on Toronto in the offseason.

If my projections are somewhat accurate, the Toronto Raptors took on Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green as rental assets, and the real goal is to transfer into becoming more active in a future free agency class. This move has nothing to do with the playing ability of DeRozan, and more to do with the financial barricades.

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Earvin “Magic” Johnson

After landing the biggest superstar in sports in LeBron James, the next step for the Los Angeles Lakers was to reel in either Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. After George elected to remain in Oklahoma City, this trade involving Leonard puts a dagger in any hopes of the Lakers landing the veteran before the summer of 2019.

While Los Angeles should find themselves in the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season, the addition of Leonard would have placed the franchise on a similar pedestal as the Golden State Warriors.

There is always next year, but James will be another year older, and players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee will all hit the free agency market once again. There is no assurance that all, or if any of those role players will return to Los Angeles, so this was quite the hiccup for Lakers fans.

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 Gregg Popovich

The relationship between Kawhi Leonard and head coach Gregg Popovich has been genuine since Leonard was traded for after the 2010 NBA Draft. The two have gone on to win plenty of regular season games, and even earned themselves an NBA Championship in which most believed the Miami Heat “superteam” would run away with.

There were rumors around the NBA that Leonard was considering attending USA Basketball’s minicamp next week, which is coached and ran by none other than Popovich. While it’s a long shot to believe Leonard was sticking in San Antonio, the transactions involving Paul George and LeBron James this summer have proven that anything in the NBA is possible.

Would Popovich been able to retain Kawhi Leonard and keep him with the Spurs? Could San Antonio pushed out more for a four-time All-Defensive player? Are the Los Angeles Lakers kicking themselves for not giving up their core for Leonard, or is the plan to reel him in next year still in motion?


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