UNITED STATES—On Wednesday, July 18, the San Antonio Spurs traded two-time Defensive Player of the Year (2015 and 2016) and the second youngest Finals MVP (2014) in NBA history to the Toronto Raptors. Kawhi Leonard’s complicated standoff with the Spurs organization came to an end. While Leonard has repeatedly made it clear through his camp that he wants to be a Los Angeles Laker, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs had other plans.
Chris Haynes of ESPN tweeted soon after the trade, “Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.” Later in the day, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Leonard had begun to “warm up to the idea” of playing in Toronto. There were reports Leonard may sit out the upcoming NBA season, but that would make it very difficult for him to attain a max contract next summer.
While Leonard may not have been traded to the team of his choice, the Raptors are not a bad consolation. During the 2017-2018 season, they won 59 games and earned the first seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors underperformed in the playoffs, but Leonard certainly makes the Raptors a serious threat to make the NBA Finals for the first time in the franchise’s history, assuming he is at full health.
Before the 2017-2018 season, Leonard was viewed as a potential MVP candidate by Chris Broussard of FS1 sports. Due to a nagging thigh injury, Leonard only played in 9 out of 82 games during the season.
During his most productive season (2016-2017) Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals. When healthy, many consider him to be the best two-way player in the NBA. It will be interesting to see how well Leonard meshes with his new team in Toronto.