By Brandon Easler
In a shocking trade, the Raptors have dealt DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. I do not know if anyone saw a Kawhi to the Raptors trade happening, as many speculations were that he would end up in LA (either as a Laker or Clipper), in Philly, or in Boston. The Raptors are taking a big gamble here, but they knew that they needed to shake up their roster after failing to make the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons. First came the firing of Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, and now they have shipped off DeRozan in exchange for Kawhi.
What does this mean for the Raptors? Honestly, they are probably still the third best team in the East behind Boston and Philly. However, this does make the east a bit stronger as Kawhi (if fully healthy) is now the best player in the east. Even if the Raptors get out of the east with this team, they will most likely lose in the Finals to any of the stacked teams in the west. Kawhi will most likely not re-sign with the Raptors, but they probably realized this before making the trade and just wanted to take a one year shot at winning the east. However, they pretty much killed their future as their best player after next season will be a 33-year old Kyle Lowry. They will have a decent amount of cap room, but will anyone really want to play in Toronto?
What does this mean for the Spurs? They have to be happy after getting an all-star in return for Kawhi who was unwilling to continue playing for the franchise due to how they handled his injury. As we have seen already, Coach Pop can win and get in the playoffs with pretty much anyone. The Spurs were two games out of the third seed last season without Kawhi, and after maintaining pretty much the same roster this summer (losing Parker and gaining Belinelli and Cunningham) I see the Spurs being able to get either the 3 or 4 seed battling with the Warriors, Rockets, and Lakers. Another key aspect of this trade is that DeRozan cannot escape the grasp of LeBron James. If they meet in a playoff series again, will LeBron turn DeRozan from an all-star to a bench player like he has the past few years? Can Pop get more out of DeRozan in the playoffs? Each of these questions will be interesting to watch once the playoffs roll around.
This trade put some much-needed excitement into a pretty boring offseason so far. LeBron going to the Lakers was expected, Paul George stayed with OKC, no huge draft deals, and the Warriors just continue to get better. This was really the first surprising move of the offseason, and I feel like both teams will benefit from it. The Raptors will be in the running for the east once again, and they have a proven winner instead of a player who only seems to disappear in the playoffs. The Spurs get two players that they know will actually play and also get a first-round pick. Both of these teams will likely be top 4 in their respective conferences, but as is the ultimate goal for every team in the NBA they are both still searching for ways to take down the Warriors.
Follow @NbaNosebleed for more!