How a potential Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors would affect the Celtics

How a potential Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors would affect the Celtics

After over a month of the Lakers and Sixers being considered favored suitors in a potential Kawhi Leonard trade, the Raptors have emerged as favorites to land the Spurs’ two-way star. The most recent speculation supporting this rumor occured on ESPN’s The Lowe Post. The episode featured ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who believes the Raptors have a good chance of pulling off the blockbuster if the Sixers and Lakers cease their pursuit.

“I think [the Raptors are] in the driver’s seat for Kawhi because I think the Lakers have given up, the Sixers have given up,” Windhorst said. “And with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade. I think the Raptors are in the driver’s seat.”

Regardless of where one stands on this report, it cannot be denied that the prospect of Leonard to the Raptors has gained traction over the past week. The Action Network had the team from up north’s odds of landing Leonard at 2.94 percent in implied probability when the Finals ended. That probability has since jumped to 9.01 percent.

In addition to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post bringing the possibility to attention, Zach Lowe, host of The Lowe Post, voiced his own speculation on the Raptors’ chances to land Leonard earlier this month in a column.

With that said, with collective belief throughout the media pointing at a possible Leonard-to-Raptors deal, what would such a transaction mean for the Celtics?

For starters, the team is 6-10 against the Raptors dating back to the 2014 season. The Raptors have been a tough matchup over the years, largely due to the combination of their bench depth, size in their frontcourt, and the scoring ability of DeMar DeRozan. Although the deal may look nothing like it, and at least one draft pick is surely to be included, here is a rough sketch of what a Leonard trade nucleus could look like…

Spurs could get:

DeMar DeRozan ($27 million)

OG Anunoby ($2 million)

Pascal Siakam ($1 million)

Raptors could get:

Kawhi Leonard ($20 million)

Danny Green ($10 million)

Potential Raptors lineup after a Leonard trade:

PG – Kyle Lowry

SG – Danny Green

SF – Kawhi Leonard

PF – Serge Ibaka

C – Jonas Valanciunas

Bench – Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, CJ Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Delon Wright

The money matches up for something like this to happen. The good news is, DeRozan, a proven Celtic-killer would leave for the West. Judging on their high demands in past negotiations with the Lakers, it’s unlikely the Spurs would accept a package without him in the mix, as he’s only 28 years old. The bad news is, the Raptors would be replacing him with Leonard, a player who is a better defender, and just as capable of a scorer when healthy. He is also a Finals MVP, while DeRozan has been widely criticized for his underwhelming playoff performances when the stakes are high.

Based on how the money would need to match up, the Raptors would also receive either Danny Green or Patty Mills, as one of their contracts would fulfill the needed extra $10 million to level out the salary match. Green is taller than Mills and a player known league-wide for his 3-and-D roll (three-point shooting defender). But either player would help the Raptors in the sense that they’d be trading young role players along with DeRozan, and receiving a second guard/wing in addition to Leonard, with postseason experience in a much more competitive Western Conference (both Green and Mills won a championship with Leonard and the Spurs in 2014).  

On top of becoming a more poised playoff team, the Raptors would keep their bench depth as well as their post protection, a strength of their that the Celtics have had a difficult time countering over the years.

Despite the now apparent possibility of Leonard being dealt to the Raptors, the narrative of the 27-year-old wanting to play in Los Angeles is not going to change regardless of what happens. He is from Southern California, and it wouldn’t exactly be surprising if he opts to go to the Lakers or Clippers next summer. Most people would take California sunshine over Canadian taxes. Maybe if Dwane Casey was still pacing the Raptor sidelines, there would be more incentive for him to stay. But the team instead has Nick Nurse at the helm, an assistant of Casey’s since the start of the 2013-14 season.

So maybe Leonard would be a one-year rental for the Raptors. But it’s worth a reminder that he has said nothing publicly about his preference throughout this entire saga. The word on his preference has come only from his “camp.” A winning team could appeal to Leonard just as much as a hometown team would. And if he sticks in Toronto beyond next year, he’d strengthen an already challenging opponent for the Celtics, and the Raptors could be in the mix for the Eastern Conference crown for seasons to come.



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Source: GreenStreet Blog

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