Kawhi Leonard is heading to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that includes DeMar DeRozan and a first-round pick.
Kawhi Leonard’s future was a topic of debate all offseason. It was clear that his time with the San Antonio Spurs was over, but his next team remained a mystery.
But the mystery is finally over. According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes of ESPN, the deal is Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick (protected 1-20).
This deal comes as a surprise to almost everyone involved. Toronto was not on Kawhi’s shortlist of teams and DeRozan was told he would not be traded while he was attending summer league.
For the Spurs, it’s hard to imagine there were any better offers on the table. They get an excellent player in DeRozan and they’ll have another first rounder next summer, albeit a late first rounder. It’s hard to imagine Gregg Popovich won’t be able to bring the best out in DeRozan.
It’s also hard to imagine the Raptors taking a step back with Leonard taking over for DeRozan. Toronto is built for regular season success—at the very least—and their draft pick should land in the 21-30 range. Therefore, the pick protections won’t kick in and San Antonio can work their magic with a late first rounder in 2019.
This is also a smart move from the Raptors. If Kawhi doesn’t like Toronto and bolts in the offseason, the Raptors accelerated a rebuild by dumping DeRozan’s contract. But they have a year to sell Kawhi on the idea of staying in Toronto much like Oklahoma City did with Paul George.
The big takeaway for New Yorkers, Kawhi could test the waters of free agency in 2019. This is great for Knicks and Nets fans alike. Both teams will have cap space for a max contract. If the Spurs dealt Kawhi to a team on his shortlist, he may have signed a long-term deal and any dream of Kawhi in a Knicks or Nets uniform fades away.
But for now, New Yorkers can still dream about signing Leonard next summer.