Kawhi Leonard Traded to Raptors

Yesterday, in something of a rarity within the NBA, two top players were traded for each other, along with some other flotsam to balance out the trade:

The San Antonio Spurs finally met the request of superstar wing Kawhi Leonard to be traded, though they may not have given him exactly what he wanted. Reports were that Leonard wanted to be traded to one of the Los Angeles teams – the Lakers were seen as his preferred team even before LeBron James took his talents to Inglewood – and the Spurs instead shipped him north to Toronto, a solid team that always seemed to meet its demise each season at the hands of LeBron.
Though Leonard missed the bulk of last season – he played in only 9 games – due to a quadriceps injury that was at the root of his discontent with the Spurs, he is still considered a top player in the league, and the hope for all fans of the NBA is that he can return to his pre-injury form. This is a player that has finished in the top five in MVP voting: third after the 2017 season (behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden) and second after the 2016 season (behind Stephen Curry).
He also has a Finals MVP for the Spurs last championship in 2014 against the LeBron Heat, and two appearances in the mid-season All-Star game. Other accolades include first-team All-Rookie (2011), multiple appearances on the All-Defensive Team (including Defensive Player of the Year after the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons), and two appearances on the All-NBA first team (after the two near MVP seasons). He’s no slouch, and if he is indeed healthy after sitting out most of last year, he should return to his place in the top tier of the league.
DeMar DeRozan, the other “superstar” in this trade, is no slouch either, though he doesn’t have the same accolades or team success of Leonard. Nevertheless, he has four All-Star appearances, two All-NBA Team appearances (3rd Team in 2017 and 2nd Team in 2018), and a top ten MVP finish after last season, though he was a distant 8th behind Harden. His place on the 2nd All-NBA Team places him in the “top 10” conversation among NBA stars, though who knows if that remains the case playing more games in the loaded Western Conference.
After LeBron James’ third decision largely went as expected, the next shoe to drop in the NBA off-season was expected to be this Kawhi Leonard trade, though there was still a chance the Spurs could mend fences by offering millions more in a contract that any other team could. And Leonard is still expected to be a free agent after the next season, so unless Toronto can convince him to stick around, chances are he still ends up out in Los Angeles next year, perhaps teaming up with LeBron to start the next Lakers dynasty. It remains to be seen the impact for both teams, and we’ll no more once the season actually starts around Halloween.
There are still some free agents out there that still have a decision to make about where they might be playing next year, but for the most part, the big news of the NBA off-season is now complete (pending any unexpected trades). There’s still training camps and a short pre-season, but the lull before the next NBA season, and the Warriors ultimate march to another title, is upon us. Seems like a great time to follow some other league, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Until next time…

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