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Examining the Impact of the Kawhi/DeRozan Swap

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While many of us were fast asleep, the front offices of the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors were buzzing around a massive move in the NBA landscape.

A stunning move that saw two of the arguably top fifteen players in the league move from not only team to team, but conference to conference. And while this move makes sense to many, the reasoning for each organization to agree to this is very different. Here’s how this trade will shake up both teams heading into next season.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors finished the season with a franchise-record 59 wins and an Eastern Conference semifinals appearance against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Aside from being swept by the Cavs in this series, the most interesting part of this series came at the end of game three when, then-head coach, Dwane Casey, decided to bench DeMar DeRozan at the end of the game due to a very lackluster performance. DeRozan had eight points, four rebounds, three turnovers, and shot just 25% in that game  before being benched. DeRozan would later go on to express his frustration about the benching after the game and seemed to be very open about it. From then on there were many rumblings of the possibility of the organization blowing it up and possibly even trading DeRozan. The first pin fell when they decided to move on from Casey, firing him after the season. This trade served to be the second pin to fall, but not towards a complete rebuild. Kawhi (and Danny Green) provide the Raptors another shot at an Eastern Conference championship. The only difference now is that LeBron has moved to the Western Conference and many now describe the East as “wide open”. Aside from all of this, just simply the fact that the Raptors now have the most accomplished and arguably best player in their conference on their team. As well as having one last shot at the championship, the fact that Kawhi has an expiring contract this year gives the Raptors the ability to have flexibility in the seasons to come.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have a bit of a different take on this trade, however. It is far from a secret that Kawhi did not want to play in San Antonio anymore. While it is hard to believe why a player wouldn’t want to play for arguably the best coach in NBA history in Gregg Popovich as well as a team that seems to always be at the top of their conference, the Spurs have fulfilled Leonard’s wishes by trading him to the Raptors. By receiving DeRozan and Poeltl in return, the Spurs add a young big man as well as a top 15 player in the NBA to an already talented roster. While the certainly aren’t an elite team anymore, a core of DeRozan  and LaMarcus Aldridge puts them with the B-level teams in the NBA. Salary cap wise it would be hard to picture the Spurs making any other big splashes in free agency or via trade. However, with the many expiring contracts throughout the NBA this year, if the Spurs believe they are an acquirable piece away from seriously contending, they may be very active towards the trade deadline.

On a more big picture side of this trade, the Spurs did not opt to go for prospects in a deal for Kawhi but they went for a proven star and a young, established role player. Given Popovich’s age and this move, it is likely that he will fulfill his current contract and move on from the organization and era he left behind before the team goes into a full on rebuild.

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