By: Vincent Pensabene
Good on the NBA for letting MLB get their moment with the All-Star Game before taking back the attention of everyone. In case you haven’t heard (which would be weird at this point) Kawhi Leonard has been sent out of the country by Gregg Popovich. The Toronto Raptors have traded DeMar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl, and draft considerations for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
I have a few issues with this trade:
1. DeMar Derozan didn’t want to leave Toronto. He vented his frustration on his Instagram story where he said “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing.” This was the guy that wanted to be a lifer in Toronto. The best Raptors of all-time (Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Chris Bosh) all left the team and this guy had some loyalty towards the organization that told him recently that he was not going to be traded. How does the Raptors get another impact player that wants to stay when they lied to the best player on their team?
2. Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to go to Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is a great city but Leonard’s camp even said they did NOT want to go there. There is zero chance he will go the Paul George route and fall in love with the city/team and decide to sign back in free agency. This is a rental and they gave up DeRozan, who was the only big-name that would have been on the team after this season. Lowry (2 years), Ibaka (2 years), and Leonard (1 year) are all coming up on the end of their contracts and after this, I can’t fathom any of them staying. Toronto goes back to the lottery after this season unless one of them stays.
3. Say the Raptors do not trade Leonard and he decides to play the entire season for the team, they still aren’t the favorites in the Eastern Conference in my eyes. This is the most short-sighted trade in the NBA since the Brooklyn Nets got Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics, who made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without either Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving, are my pick for the East. Also, the 76ers are the same team with playoff experience. The Raptors might not get home court advantage with all three teams being in the Atlantic division.
I have always been a fan of Danny Green since watching him in his high school games. He also joins the fray of Raptors who will be unrestricted free agents after the season. The Raptors are in win now mode and can’t even get out of the East and depending on the seeding, won’t make the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Raptors should look to move Kawhi Leonard as soon as possible to improve their roster for the future and build around Fred VanVleet as well as others on their bench squad, which was the best in the NBA last season. Get the assets to make the team better and compete in an Eastern Conference without LeBron James.