It's Okay To Have Mixed Feelings About The Demar Derozan - Kawhi Leonard Trade

The Toronto Raptors just traded away their franchise player… But it’s not all bad. They got a top-5 player (when healthy) in Kawhi Leonard and an effective “3 and D” wing in Danny Green. The Demar-Lowry pairing brought the Raptors to the top of the Eastern Conference in the regular season but always seemed to fall short in the playoffs.

Did this trade needed to be done? Did a change need to be made? Wasn’t that why we fired Dwayne Casey? I understand why Masai Ujiri pulled the trigger on this trade; Kawhi Leonard is an MVP caliber player and the Raptors have never had that. The past few years have been the best in Raptors history. Do you really want to trade a perennial all-star who WANTS to be in Toronto for someone who doesn’t? After this season, the Raptors will probably be without Kawhi and Derozan which will make them a team, at best, who is fighting to get into the playoffs.

You don’t have to be upset about the trade but it’s okay if you are. Demar was loved in Toronto and always will be which is what makes this trade hurt even more. You also don’t have to be excited for it but it’s okay if you are. Me? I’m both.

Why You Should Be Excited:

First of all, we got a potential MVP candidate in Kawhi if he returns to what he was two years ago. He is one of, if not the best two-way player in the league and maybe of all time. The last time we saw a healthy Kawhi (2016-17 Playoffs) he was averaging 27.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 52.5% FG, and 93% FT. Not to mention he and the Spurs were beating down on the Warriors in the Conference Finals before Zaza Pachulia happened (Leonard had 26 pts 8 reb in 24 mins). That means the Raptors will probably have the best player in the conference this season.

Kawhi’s offence has grown tremendously since coming into the league, but his defence is what scares people who have to play against him. He has been the Defensive Player of the Year twice and is one of three players to win DPOY and Finals MVP in the same year (others are Hakeem Olajuwan and Michael Jordan). He has garnered much respect around the league for his defensive ability and was voted as the players voice DPOY in 2016. Lebron has even come out and said that Leonard is the best at guarding him.

Leonard’s resume is pretty full already. On top of his multiple DPOY wins and his Finals MVP he can add: two All-NBA First Teams (2016,2017),  three All Defensive First Team (2015, 2016, 2017), All Defensive Second Team (2014) and All Rookie First Team (2012).

The addition of Leonard  and Danny Green obviously makes this team better right now. Both are tremendously talented perimeter defense guys and can shoot; fitting Nick Nurse’s system perfectly. Swapping Leonard for Derozan makes the Raptors starting five even more dangerous and adding Green into the mix will fill the Raptors need for a SG now that Derozan is gone. The Raptors were a top-five defensive team last year and the addition of these two will only make them better on that end of the floor.

Leonard and Green both have playoff experience and will hopefully help the Raptors get past the playoff struggles that seem to come every year. This trade puts the Raptors at the top of the Eastern Conference with Boston and Philadelphia. Both Boston and Philadelphia will be better this season with two really good young cores and two key players coming back for the Celtics.

Why It’s Okay To Be Hurt:

Before I get started on this, I will say that I was hurt when I found out Demar was traded. He’s my favourite player in the league. I love his exciting dunks and unmatched midrange game. He loved Toronto and wanted to be here for his entire career. Mr. I am Toronto will be missed.

Trading away your franchise player is always a difficult situation. Especially for fans. Derozan was drafted in 2009 by the Raptors and re-signed three separate times. I genuinely think Derozan is the best Raptor of all-time. Not the most skilled, that was Vince Carter, but the best. He is 1st on the Raptors list in all time scoring, games played, minutes, FT made and FG made (regular season & playoff); 3rd in all time assists and steals; and 5th in rebounds.

Derozan was loyal too. Not many All-Star caliber players have ever been loyal to the Raptors (look to Carter, Bosh, T-Mac). He even took a pay cut to stay with the team so they could build around him and create what is now, the best bench in the league. They traded for a player who started out not really wanting to be there, that makes matters worst… 

Derozan said that the relationship between him and Ujiri is done. In an interview with ESPN reporter, Chris Haynes, Derozan said “ I felt like I wasn't treated with what I sacrificed for nine years, with the respect that I thought I deserved. By just giving me the say so of letting me know something's going on or it's a chance. That's all I wanted. That's all I wanted. I'm not saying, 'You don't have to trade me' or ... just let me know something is going on because I sacrificed everything.”

The way the Raptors treated Derozan has a few NBA players upset (Insert NBA Tweets). This might steer potential upcoming Free Agents away from Toronto as they see the way management handles franchise players.

 

Will The Raptors Keep Kawhi?

 

It’s too early to tell now, but it’s not likely. Ever since Kawhi’s injury issues started in San Antonio, it has come out that he wants to play in LA. Playing in Toronto isn’t like playing in LA. Kawhi has played basketball in hot places his whole career, Toronto is cold for 6 months of the year; Kawhi wants more recognition around the league, Toronto doesn’t get much US national coverage; Kawhi wants more money, Toronto makes the rich pay much higher taxes than the US.

If there is a saving grace to keep Kawhi it’s that the Raptors are the only team that can offer him a contract worth $189.7M over 5 years. Other teams can only offer him $140.6M over 4. Not many players will leave that kind of money on the table, especially since he left roughly $30M by asking out of San Antonio.

This could be a troubling time for Raptors fans. We’ve seen too many stars leave us or not want to be here. T-Mac left in Free Agency, Chris Bosh left in Free Agency, Vince Carter loved it here then played his way into a trade.

But none of those guys were ever on a team as good as this Raptors team is right now. If the Raptors can win a championship (yeah right) or even if they can make the finals and put up a decent fight against the team that comes out of the West (The Warriors), that might help keep Kawhi happy in Toronto. We also have Drake to help recruiting and create celebrity buzz around the team that San Antonio has never really had.

What The Raptors Look Like Now:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright

SG: Danny Green, C.J Miles, Norman Powell

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby

PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam

C: Jonas Valanciunas

I’m not sure what the actual rotation will look like at the beginning of the season but I’m certain we will be seeing changes as the season goes along because of the new coach and new pieces.

I predict the starting lineup will be:

Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas

This lineup will be a defensive powerhouse and will have some good shot makers on the wing. Having the starters lock down the other team is going to allow the bench unit to focus more on scoring and less on shutting their opponents.

My favourite lineup is going to look like:

Kyle Lowry, CJ Miles, Kawhi Leonard,  OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam

That’s a lineup with crazy athleticism and great perimeter play that can shut down the opponent and put up some good offensive numbers. This lineup is pretty small so they won’t be able to use it against a lineup with Joel Embiid or Dwight Howard but they can use it in small doses against another small ball lineup. This rotation will be a spark for the team and will be a high energy fast paced group to play a few minutes.

This lineup will be a defensive powerhouse and will have some good shot makers on the wing. Having the starters lock down the other team is going to allow the bench unit to focus more on scoring and less on shutting their opponents.

Ultimately, the Raptors are in a really good spot with this trade and have improved significantly for this one year and hopefully for the future. Unfortunately it came at the cost of losing the franchises most loyal player and hurting him while doing so. Re-signing Kawhi should be the number one priority this season for management, the players and the city.

Masai, work your magic.