KAWHI SO SERIOUS?
Hypothetical deal for disgruntled Spurs star Leonard wouldn’t make sense for Raptors
LAS VEGAS — Nothing creates a buzz these days like wild, baseless speculation, so here is one corner’s thoughts on the Kawhi Leonard-to-toronto “rumours.”
First of all, the Raptors being the new betting favourites to land Leonard, one of the NBA’S top players and likely its best two-way talent, does not mean there is momentum toward such a move. All it illustrates is that Vegas thinks it can get good action from the idea.
Though Raptors boss Masai Ujiri and San Antonio counterpart R.C. Buford have an excellent relationship, there has been no sourced information that the two have actually held substantive talks. More likely, Leonard’s camp is trying to speed up the divorce from the only franchise Leonard has ever known, one that coincidentally is one of the best in all of sports.
With that out of the way and half of readers bailing on this piece, would pursuing Leonard make sense for the Raps? It depends.
If Leonard and his people tell Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster that, against all odds, the Californian who has long been connected to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, has decided relocating to the North and signing a long-term extension is what he wants, by all means the Raptors should push every chip in to get him. Leonard would be the best player the franchise has ever had, even by a significant margin over prime Vince Carter, who could not lock down opponents the way a healthy Leonard has.
But that’s not happening. So, if Leonard is merely a rental player for a year (and even then you’d have to be sure he’d even come for a year) would adding him make sense for Toronto at this stage?
Again, depends on the cost. Kyle Lowry had strong interest in joining the Spurs as a free agent, but it wasn’t a mutual fit. If that’s still the case, any Raptors package would start with Demar Derozan. The ALL-NBA third team member has been the most loyal of all Raptors and a tremendous player for the club, but Leonard is a vastly superior player, both more efficient offensively and in a completely different realm at the other end of the floor.
San Antonio was high on Valanciunas in the past, perhaps there would be a way to work him into something, with Toronto taking back undesirable contracts.
The Spurs would ask for OG Anunoby, Toronto’s best asset, and likely a first-round pick or two and one or two of Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl.
For this corner, Anunoby is a non-starter for any Leonard rental. He should only be in play in the alternate dimension where Leonard commits to Toronto long-term. Failing that, parting with Siakam or even Wright would be tough, but adding Leonard to Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Anunoby, Fred Vanvleet and Jonas Valanciunas would give the Raptors a shot to reach the Finals. With Boston and Philadelphia set to potentially pull away from the Raptors due to much more assembled talent in a year or two, this could be the last shot to make serious noise for some time.
Again, without Anunoby included, it’s likely a splash worth taking and the Raptors simply can’t run back a near identical group, minus Dwane Casey and Rex Kalamian.
Now that the summer has been livened up, back to reality.
Dealing for Kawhi Leonard, seen here when working out for the Raptors prior to the 2011 NBA draft, as a rental player wouldn’t make sense for Toronto.
in Las Vegas