Kawhi Headed North
The Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes have finally come to an end. The man known as "The Claw" is on his way to Toronto in return for DeMar DeRozan. Aside from the swapping of stars, Danny Green will also head north, as Jakob Poeltl and a top 20 protected first round pick shuffle on down to Texas. While you were sleeping, Masai Ujiri was spending his Tuesday night working the phones in order to provide his organization a shot at its biggest home run in franchise history. In order to knock this one out of the park, however, Toronto's front office had to swing hard and with that comes the risk of a humiliating miss. And let me tell you, this ain't your average curveball.
Our first indications as reported by ESPN's Chris Haynes, are that Kawhi does NOT want to play in the six. As if the message wasn't already clear, this backs up what we've been hearing all along, Kawhi wants to spend winters on the sunny beaches of L.A.. Well, son, welcome to the great white north. In a stunning display of pettiness, coach Pop and the Spurs have dealt their disgruntled star to the polar opposite of his desired landing spot, T.O.
So is it worth it? We'll only know when Kawhi's attitude becomes clear. If he suits up, performs and doesn't cause an off court distraction, that's alright. If he resigns next summer, then holy s**t, home run. BUT if/when he walks this is going to look a little, no, a LOT worse. The chances of him staying are slim and losing the talents of the Raptors' heart and soul in DeRozan leaves more than an empty roster spot. This move scars Toronto's front office. DeMar took to instagram to voice his displeasure, even hinting that he was told he was not on the market. This breach of trust doesn't bode well for future relationships between big free agents and the current regime. It's true, the NBA is a business. But as we're learning, loyalty matters. Unfortunately for DeMar, it matters more if you control your own destiny. When DeRozan signed his contract extension in 2016 he may have missed the small print that read "we might ship your ass outta here though".
Emotions aside, this trade alleviates San Antonio of their discontent and (given Kawhi is healthy) puts Toronto right back into the fight for the top of the East. If Kawhi picks up where he left off I can even imagine the Raptors reaching the finals, but that's one big "if". Another likely outcome is that Leonard's camp forces their way out yet again, whether through a holdout or another outstanding disruption of the peace. If you can't already tell, my outlook is not positive for Toronto. Say we get to the trade deadline and their relationship is tenuous, does Masai cut his losses and ship Leonard to a team looking to contend? That's very possible. Look to teams like Philadelphia or Milwaukee to spring a last minute deal and try their luck at convincing one of the most enigmatic personalities in the league to buy in for the long run. Either way, good luck won't be enough, it seems Kawhi has a place in mind, and all of these moves are just speed bumps on the highway to the city of angels.