Win Now Mode

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Leonard to the Raptors

Toronto Raptors Go all in, Trade DeMar DeRozan to Spurs for Kawhi Leonard

The business of sports has no room for loyalty.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors traded their franchise cornerstone – a player who has shown nothing but loyalty to Toronto for nearly a decade. DeMar DeRozan was selected by the Raptors out of USC in the 2009 NBA Draft and has since continued to get better, putting the entire team on his back, helping to build a special culture in Toronto.

As DeRozan continued to grow as a player and as a man, the city embraced him – the fan base loved him.

But sports is a business and there is a reason why Ujiri and all front office personnel haul in the big bucks.

The Raptors have most definitely plateaued with the team they had in place and a big reason behind it was because of the style of game DeRozan played. A liability due to inefficiency, the Raptors really had no place to move on from. They have continued to roll with the same core time and time again and have not been able to get over the hump on any occasion.

On Wednesday, Ujiri made the ultimate win-now move.

The Raptors swapped DeRozan for Leonard, while also receiving the services of sharpshooter Danny Green. In return, the Raptors shipped Jacob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick. The pick will be protected 1-20 and after one year it turns into a second round pick – meaning that if Leonard chooses not to play for the Raptors, the team will more than likely retain their first round pick.

Now, lets take emotions out of this trade, assume that Leonard will play his best, and dissect this move.

First and foremost, it seemed like all of the Raptors’ competition bowed out of the Leonard sweepstakes, putting the Raptors firmly in the driver’s seat. Furthermore, let’s applaud Ujiri, who was able to secure the best player in the trade, along with a sharpshooter in Green while not moving any of the pieces no Raptor fan wanted Ujiri to move – that being Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright, and O.G. Anunoby. Masai did all of this in 2018 on a BlackBerry.

While DeRozan was not known for his defensive prowess, Leonard is quite possibly the best defender in the entire league. He is a great outside shooter and scorer as well, which will work perfectly in the type of style of offence that new head coach Nick Nurse hopes to run this upcoming season.

Moreover, the Raptors are in a position where its all or nothing.

Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka both have an extra year on their contracts, while Leonard and Green are free agents at year’s end. No matter what happens, moving DeRozan frees up plenty of cap space for the Raptors allowing them to begin rebuilding a year earlier, while providing them with the necessary cap flexibility.

DeRozan is hurt by the move, clearly being caught off guard by the entire trade – throwing not-so-subtle shade at the Raptors too – but that shows naivety. The sport is a business and for the past number of years DeRozan has come short of what the Raptors were hoping to attain.

When as an employee you continuously fail to reach expectations, well, then it’s time to make a change. Moving DeRozan was that change that needed to happen.

At the end of the day, the thing that matters most is the Spurs have moved on from Leonard, while the Raptors have become a better basketball team. It’s two teams doing what’s best for their present with an eye out for the future.

The Raptors window was closing and something big had to be done. That something big was done – now it’s time to win.

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