Kawhi Leonard was recently traded to the Toronto Raptors along with Spurs teammate, Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a conditional first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs. The Toronto Raptors were knocked out of the playoffs three straight years against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and it wasn’t pretty, getting swept two out of the three years and going 0-7 in Quicken Loans Arena in the playoffs. The Toronto Raptors were clearly the better team this past season, first in the East at 59 wins and having one of the deepest teams in the league. Unfortunately their playoff run was put to an end early on when LeBron swept them basically by himself.
With LeBron being traded out of the Eastern Conference and Kawhi Leonard requesting a trade from the Spurs, Toronto saw their chance to make it to the finals, but this meant they had to sacrifice DeRozan–a player that is arguably one of the best Raptors of all-time–for a player with only one more year left on his contract and hoping to get traded to either one of the L.A. teams. This was a big risk, but with the reassurance of Kawhi Leonard on their team they could be a major competitor for the NBA title. Although he might only be a one-year rental it could be the best year in the franchise’s history.
Kawhi is a former 2-time All-Star, NBA champion, Finals MVP and a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. DeRozan was an outstanding player for the Raptors but he doesn’t compare to how skilled and determined Leonard is. Leonard can take over games with his defense and his ability to score at any time, whereas DeRozan struggled, especially in the playoffs, failing to score late in the 4th quarter when they needed him most.
In Kawhi’s first game as a Raptor he recorded 24 points and had 13 rebounds. In his second game, against Boston, he recorded 31 points and added on 10 rebounds–pretty good numbers for a player that hadn’t played 5-on-5 basketball in 9 months. Toronto had a slow start but started to pick it up late in the 4th going on a 16-5 run to end the game winning 113-101. It was a successful game against a team that they could potentially be facing in the Eastern Conference finals.
Kawhi didn’t play the next game against Washington because it was held the next day and Toronto didn’t want to push him too hard so early in the season and end up with an injury. They want him to be healthy and fresh when the playoffs come around.
Toronto is projected to have 55 wins this year, 4 less than last year. I think it’s a fair amount of wins to give them given that they have a new head coach and it could take a while to get the offensive chemistry going. Toronto is looking good through six games so far and they are looking to go 7 and 0 tonight against Milwaukee. This will be an exciting story to watch this season as Toronto tries to parlay a risky trade into chance at the championship.