KAWHI SO SE­RI­OUS?

Hy­po­thet­i­cal deal for dis­grun­tled Spurs star Leonard wouldn’t make sense for Raptors

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - RYAN WOLSTAT rwol­stat@post­media.com @wol­statsun

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.

TORONTO SUN FILES

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

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