The Raptors are stuck in between a rock and a hard place. They have had plenty of regular season success the past few years, ending each of the last three seasons with over 50 wins. Their issues have occurred in the post-season, where they have been knocked out by LeBron and the Cavaliers in those same three years in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With the Raptors not being able to overcome LeBron, and the Eastern Conference only getting better as the Celtics and Sixers get more experience, the championship window is closing in Toronto. To be able to have a real shot at getting to the Finals, the Raptors might need to make some drastic moves.
On a related note, recent reports say that Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with his situation and is requesting a trade out of San Antonio. The top suitors for Leonard’s talents are rumored to be both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, as well as the Boston Celtics, who made an attempt to acquire Leonard at last year’s trade deadline. Leonard is young, two-way star that every team in the NBA would love to have.
However, it should be the Toronto Raptors that should be looking to make the move acquire Leonard by any means necessary, and by “any means necessary,” I mean even if they have to ship out star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
Raptors acquire: Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills
Spurs acquire: DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles, 2019 first round pick, 2021 first round pick.
DeRozan has come into his own the past few years, averaging over 23 points per game over the past five years and being named an All-Star four times. While DeRozan is a great volume scorer, he is a one-dimensional player whose shooting inconsistencies in the playoffs have been a large factor in the Raptors not making deep playoffs runs. He is also going on 29 years old and the decline of his game is surely coming sooner rather than later. While DeRozan has performed exceptionally while in Toronto, the Raptors may want to look elsewhere to see if someone else can lead the team to the next level.
Leonard, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career despite not playing this year due to injury. The two-way star averaged 25 points and 6 rebounds in 2017 and was looking to become a superstar in the NBA. Leonard has also already proved himself in the post-season by being named the 2014 NBA Finals MVP. His discontent with the Spurs stems from how they handled his quadriceps injury, where the team held Leonard out of games despite reports saying that Leonard was healthy. Many knew Leonard was not happy, but his days seem numbered now that he publicly stated he wants out of San Antonio, and the Raptors should be trying to make a deal to get him in Toronto.
If they got Leonard, the Raptors become the front-runner to win the East for several reasons. They would have the first or second most seasoned superstar in the Eastern Conference (depending where LeBron ends up this summer) in a time when star power is the key to success. Leonard also does not need the ball in his hands to be successful, unlike DeRozan, and would allow All-Star teammate Kyle Lowry to excel and take the pressure off of him. Not to mention that Leonard and fellow forward OG Anunoby would be the most lockdown defensive duo in the league. With Leonard on the Raptors, the potential for the team would be limitless.
Not only would the Raptors benefit from this trade but so would the Spurs. They missed the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever this past season, making it seem that there is a rebuilding phase imminent in San Antonio. Having a couple extra first round draft picks would be nice if that were to happen, but there is also a chance the Spurs rebuild goes a very different direction. DeRozan is still a star and maybe a great coach like Greg Popovich with a great system could make him an even better, more efficient scorer. They also still have All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and if they could make the right moves in the upcoming draft, they could be back in contention in the matter of a few years.
This trade is must for the Raptors. They’ve proven to be regular season heavyweights but their current roster has proved unreliable in the playoffs. They have good starting lineup and a solid bench, now the Raptors have to make a massive move in order to capitalize in their championship window.