After months of speculation, the San Antonio Spurs finally pulled the trigger and traded disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard.
When the dust settled, Leonard, along with teammate Danny Green, was sent to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected first round pick.
When teams trade a star they often look to rebuild by bringing in young players and high-value draft picks, hoping to drop into the draft lottery for a season or two, hit the jackpot, and then get back to contending with a reloaded roster.
The Spurs, however, prioritized continuing their winning ways, and as such, they were looking for win-now pieces rather than those that could help them in the future. Mitch Lawrence of the Sporting News shared that the Spurs were adamant on bringing in a player who could average at least 20 points per game:
In dealing Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan, the Spurs got back what they demanded of all teams who wanted in in the Kawhi Sweepstakes (Toronto, Boston, Lakers and Philly): An established 20 point-per-game scorer. That was San An’s No. 1 priority and non-negotiable, per sources.
— Mitch Lawrence (@Mitch_Lawrence) July 18, 2018
If that indeed was the Spurs’ goal in a Leonard trade, then it’s mission accomplished on their end. Finding a 20-point-per-game scorer isn’t easy (there were only 23 in the entire league last season) but DeRozan makes the cut easily after averaging 23 points for the Raptors.
Most of the Leonard trade rumors focused on the Los Angeles Lakers, with most assuming that their cast of young players would interest the Spurs, but obviously finding young talent wasn’t as important to San Antonio as most thought.
That, combined with the Lakers reluctance to part with major pieces when Leonard will be a free agent next summer, means that Toronto’s offer was likely the best the Spurs were going to see. Even with the trade, the Leonard saga isn’t over, as the countdown until his free agency next summer has already begun.
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