The Toronto Raptors were once on the periphery of the Kawhi Leonard rumors, but now the Eastern Conference contender has risen to the top of the pack.
As the race to land the disgruntled San Antonio Spurs big man has stretched from days into weeks and now more than a month, what once seemed a certainty that he would be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers has become an open question. Despite reports connecting at least a half-dozen teams, the most recent reports say the Raptors have the strongest chance to land him, and betting outfits seem to agree, according to Twitter.
The betting site Odds Shark has put the Raptors at even odds to land Kawhi Leonard, and the Spurs are actually next followed by the Lakers, Clippers, and 76ers.
NBA reporter Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post suggested that the Raptors have moved into the lead to land Leonard by making some aggressive moves during the NBA Summer League.
“The Toronto Raptors also generated buzz as a potential destination for Leonard. 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.”
It would seem a steep price to move one of the two stars who helped the Raptors earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but so far, no other team seems willing to part with anything close to the hypothetical deal the Raptors are offering. Reports from last week suggesting that the Philadelphia 76ers had the inside track on Kawhi Leonard noted that Philly was holding back on some of its biggest stars, including Joel Embiid.
The aggressive moves from the Raptors could show a team looking to fill the power vacuum in the Eastern Conference with the departure of LeBron James for the Los Angeles Lakers. Acquiring Leonard would help them keep pace with the Celtics and Sixers, two squads that appear to be only at the start of their championship windows.
Whatever happens with Kawhi Leonard, it seems the Spurs are in no hurry to make a move. The Sporting News noted that San Antonio is not budging in its high asking price, and is feeling no pressure to keep Leonard happy by moving him quickly. That means the team could be willing to wait as long as necessary, even letting the stalemate last into the upcoming season while keeping Leonard on the sidelines.