Spurs Trade Leonard, Raptors betray DeRozan
The Spurs have finally dealt away the drama that plagued their 2017-18 season for an unexpected All-Star.
DeRozan quickly expressed his feelings towards the trade via Instagram, acknowledging the lack of loyalty in professional sports, but before we dive into the loyalty conversations, we have to address the end of Leonard in San Antonio.
Before this trade, many thought the Lakers were going to be the new destination for The Klaw, but they forgot one thing: Greg Popovich held the cards. Kawhi's camp made it known for months that he did not want to be in San Antonio anymore, most recently threatening to sit out the upcoming season. Despite efforts to resolve the problem, Popovich was never going to give Leonard's camp what they wanted or a free flight to Los Angeles. Not only that, but why would he trade a top-five player and Finals MVP to a team within the same conference? Trading Leonard to the Raptors was a statement, reminding Leonard and his team they did not control this situation. Leonard will still have to play a season on a team and in a market he does not want to be a part of. A perfect example of being careful of what you ask for.
The Raptors, on the other end, fell for the bait. On the surface, Raptors are the losers in this trade, giving up the cornerstone of their franchise for a player that only played nine games last season and has the most negative press around him. Most importantly, he will most likely be a one-year rental, which does not give them a long-term plan.
Or does it?
While DeRozan message on the lack of loyalty was on point, the Raptors did the right thing for the sake of their franchise. The Raptors were embarrassed by the same Cavaliers team that was taken to 7-games by the Kyrie-less Boston Celtics. In four games, LeBron James averaged more points, rebounds, and assist than the Raptors All-Star backcourt of DeRozan and Lowry. To take it even further, five players not named LeBron James averaged in double-figures against the Raptors while in the other three series, only one player joined James in double figures. The woeful Cavaliers played their best basketball against DeRozan and the Raptors.
Cavs' Playoff Points Load Percentage
This is not to say that it was DeRozan fault, but he is the franchise player on a 50+ win team. He deserves credit for leading a team to three-straight 50-win seasons, but those seasons ended with disappointing playoffs exits. After the abysmal team performance against the Cavs, it is time for the Raptors to blow up the roster and DeRozan was the first bomb to detonate.
Trading DeRozan was not the disloyal part, the Raptors lying to him was. This is where the franchise made a poor decision. Instead of being upfront about the franchise change of direction, they lied, like most franchises, which is why many are coming to DeRozan's defense. For DeRozan, he should have expected to be a part of any roster moves after the team was bumped in the second round of the Eastern Conference. Dwayne Casey was fired after being named Coach of The Year because of the underachieving performance by the team. No one is safe at that point.
Here is where the Raptors can win in the trade. DeRozan will not be a free agent until 2021, with a cap hit of $27.7 million a season. By trading DeRozan, they also trade away the last three years of his five-year $139 million contract, giving them a headstart in the rebuilding process. If Leonard does not want to be apart of the We The North movement, they will only suffer a cap hit of $23 million for this season. With one trade they saved four million dollars for this season and potentially $81 million over the next three years. In the long-term, this was not a bad trade for the Raptors, just a disloyal one.
For the Spurs, it is a win all the way around. Popovich will gain a premier shooting guard with a small ego and a first-round pick. DeRozan has been considered one of the best two-way players in the NBA, but there are still aspects of his game that can be developed, primarily his perimeter shooting. DeRozan should be excited for the opportunity to play under a coach like Pop and in a city in like San Antonio, but he must first get over the Raptors betrayal. Once a relationship is established between the two, the Spurs rebuilding process will begin without missing a beat, and they did not make their direct competition better.
Overall this trade will piss off the masses, but it was a necessary trade for both units. The Raptors are the losers because of the short-term uncertainty, but they positioned themselves to start a rebuilding stage that was inevitable.