Trade talks finally reached a boiling point on Wednesday night, as the San Antonio Spurs pulled the trigger on one of their biggest stars.
Sending a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard elsewhere was inevitable, but no one expected a late night deal between the Spurs and the Toronto Raptors midweek.
The trade, which sends Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for Toronto superstar DeMar DeRozan (among others) has received heavy criticism from all angles, but aside from the playing factor, the NBA Championship Market has once again swung.
Just three weeks removed from LeBron James’ blockbuster announcement, Leonard’s move up north has seen the Raptors firm from a long $41.00 odds all the way into a much more tidy $18.00.
In an almost reverse effect, the Spurs were also major market movers – jumping from what was once $41.00 championship odds all the way out to $67.00 to hoist the title this year.
For punters and fans alike, there’s no doubt Kawhi’s move to the East makes things a little more interesting for the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, but for the forgotten man in all of this, DeMar DeRozan, things aren’t quite so sweet.
As the poster-boy for the Raptors, DeRozan’s Instagram story paints the picture.
If you remember, this team fired potential Coach of the Year candidate Dwane Casey back in May following the Raptors’ Eastern Conference Finals sweep against the Cavs, and ever since, it appears as though Toronto are on a warpath to completely turn things upside down.
What the Raptors are losing is obvious: a 28-year old four-time All-Star who was not only the cornerstone of the franchise, but more importantly, one of the most prolific field goal shooters and defensive rebounders in the game.
What the Raptors are now gaining, well, the following tweet speaks for itself…
It’s not that Kawhi doesn’t have the talent, he’s just missing the right attitude. Reports surfaced throughout the entirety of last year discussing a feud between Leonard and Spurs coach Greg Popovich, a rift that has led us up until this point. Unfortunately for Kawhi, it looks as though a move to Toronto was the last thing he wanted.
While Kawhi taking his talents to Canada should no doubt improve the Raptors on the court, it’s off the court that now becomes a concern. A new head coach, a frustrated fan base and now… a grizzly locker room led by a star player that doesn’t want to be there?
Doesn’t sound like a championship waiting to happen.
The Raptors are also running the risk here on Leonard’s health. Banking on his 2016 season is a nice idea, and those 25.5 points-per-game were nothing short of great, but after starting in just nine games last season following numerous ankle, quad and knee injuries, who knows just how many minutes the Raptors will actually get out of this.
If one thing is for sure though, Leonard finally got his wish. It’s not the move to Los Angeles that he would have liked, but if this trade really falls flat on its face, at least the Raptors can wipe their hands of it during the free agency period next season.
As far as finals go for either of these teams, Toronto’s run will have to go through the Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division, a team Leonard has averaged a measly 16.8 points-per-game against during his eight career starts.
The Spurs, meanwhile, now have the young and exuberant shooting guard they were needing, but the loss of Tony Parker to the Hornets could cost San Antonio some leadership.
Either way, it feels like there’s still plenty of future fireworks to come from this trade in the near future.