Title:Raptors maintain future flexibility in acquisition of Kawhi Leonard
Date: July 18, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I examined the salary cap impact of the Raptors’ trade for Kawhi Leonard and its impact on the team’s potential “next phase” if Leonard walks.
The Toronto Raptors have acquired Kawhi Leonard. If you’re curious about my own take on the trade, I dove into it here initially and here once we knew the return. Eric has you covered here, too. The short version: Letting go of DeMar DeRozan is difficult for a lot of reasons, but Leonard is the type of talent you take risks for. The opportunity to land a potential top-five player comes around so infrequently that you have to make tough decisions when they do. I realize some people feel uncomfortable with it, which is completely understandable.
From a purely basketball perspective, DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick for Leonard and Danny Green is a very good trade, with the obvious risk caveats at play with Leonard on multiple fronts. Among the potential pieces bandied about leading up to this morning, the actual return would have fallen on the very light end of expectations. It’s a good deal. Outside of just the DeRozan-Leonard swap the trade helps serve several purposes for the Raptors.
Most notably, the Raptors were able to keep OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, at least one of whom was assumed to be a part of any deal for a player of Leonard’s stature. Poeltl is a very nice piece and a terrific fit with the Spurs, but he also has the lowest ceiling of any of the Raptors’ young players who were in the 10-man rotation last year except for maybe Delon Wright. Wright is very good but given his age, may cap out as a very good backup. Poeltl projects as an elite backup or fringe starter, whereas Anunoby, Siakam, and Fred VanVleet all have legitimate starter-or-better potential. In keeping the team’s two bluest chips, the Raptors took a step not only toward being better this year — Poeltl is more easily replaced by small-ball minutes and a team-friendly market for centres (Bebe, come back) — with some potentially ridiculous defensive lineup combinations, but also toward staying good in the event they pivot at the end of 2018-19.