Since the 2018 NBA offseason started, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich had been working hard to fix their relationship with Kawhi Leonard and convince him to sign a massive contract extension this offseason. Unfortunately, Leonard stood firm in his decision to leave San Antonio, forcing the Spurs to make him available on the trade market. Recently, the Spurs agreed to make a deal with the Toronto Raptors, sending Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 2019 protected first-round pick.
The departure of Kawhi Leonard is undeniably a huge loss for the Spurs. However, trading Leonard for a superstar, DeMar DeRozan, and a young promising talent, Jakob Poeltl, is undeniably the best move for the Spurs than losing him in the summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent without getting anything in return. Coach Gregg Popovich said that all they need to do right now is to move on, adding that he is thrilled to have DeRozan and Poeltl in San Antonio.
“With DeMar coming to San Antonio, I couldn’t be happier,” Popovich said, via Amico Hoops. “I think this trade will be good for both teams. DeMar is a four-time All-Star, an All-NBA player, great in the community there, team player, somebody I have respected and watched play for a while now and we are thrilled to have him here. Jakob is a young talent and has a great opportunity to develop into a very good NBA player. We are very anxious to get them involved in the program.”
Despite losing Kawhi Leonard, the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan will keep the Spurs competitive in the Western Conference next season. In 80 games he played last season, the four-time NBA All-Star averaged 23 points, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 steals on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. When healthy, there is no doubt that Leonard is a better player than DeRozan on both ends of the floor which is why most people think the Raptors won the deal.
However, it’s worth noting that Leonard could only be a one-year rental for the Raptors, while DeRozan’s contract runs until the 2020-21 NBA season. When he learned that he was traded to the Raptors, Leonard expressed his disappointment and said that he has no interest in staying in Toronto. DeRozan is also unhappy with the deal, but the Spurs will be having more time to show him why he should be optimistic being traded to San Antonio. In the past seasons, defense and perimeter shooting have been the major issues for the 28-year-old shooting guard in which he could improve when he starts playing for one of the best coaches in league history.