Over the past few weeks, many an NBA player had found a new home via free agency or trade, with LeBron James headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins set to join the Golden State Warriors and their lineup of All-Stars, and Dwight Howard moving once again and becoming a Washington Wizard. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is still with the San Antonio Spurs, and the rumors are still swirling regarding his potential trade destinations. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers have often been mentioned in past rumors, but a new report hints at a possible dark horse in the Kawhi sweepstakes — the Toronto Raptors.
According to the Washington Post‘s Tim Bontemps, things haven’t changed much as the teams expected to be in the running for Leonard’s services are still mentioned in many reports, with the 76ers, in particular, remaining among the favorites, partly due to the fact that their head coach, Brett Brown, was once an assistant for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. However, Bontemps noted that the Toronto Raptors have also been “[generating] buzz” as a team that could acquire Kawhi Leonard via trade in the days or weeks to come.
“With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, perhaps Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is willing to swing for the fences and move DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry in such a deal,” Bontemps suggested.
Considering how the first-seeded Raptors were easily swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals, there have been multiple rumors suggesting that Toronto might be inclined to trade either member of their All-Star backcourt. These include a previous report from GetMoreSports that suggested DeRozan could possibly head to the Los Angeles Lakers and play for his hometown team, though Complex noted that he recently shut down a Lakers fan who had approached him and asked him to play for the team.
Although the rumors of the Toronto Raptors acquiring Kawhi Leonard and giving up either DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry have added an interesting twist to the disgruntled Spurs standout’s ongoing saga, Raptors HQ opined that the chances of the 27-year-old forward/guard playing for the NBA’s only Canadian team are quite slim. The publication cited previous reports that claimed Leonard still prefers the Los Angeles Lakers above other potential suitors, and if he would move to an Eastern Conference team, he would only be interested in playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Furthermore, Raptors HQ stressed that the Toronto Raptors “don’t have the trade juice” to swing a deal for Kawhi Leonard, as adding someone like Lowry who is in the “back end” of his prime years might not make much sense. The blog site added that the Raptors don’t have enough young players or “draft assets” to package in with Lowry or DeRozan and get the Spurs interested in a possible deal.