The drama in San Antonio concluded with the Spurs sending Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a future draft pick. Trading for Leonard proved to be a huge risk for the Raptors as “The Claw” could leave them as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. When the Spurs-Raptors trade became official, numerous reports claimed that Leonard has no interest in playing in Toronto, making most people believe that he is only a one-year rental.
However, Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri expressed strong confidence that they can convince Kawhi Leonard to stay beyond the 2018-19 NBA season like what the Oklahoma City Thunder did to Paul George. Days before the 2018-19 NBA season officially starts, Leonard continues to show signs that he may really consider re-signing with the Raptors in the 2019 NBA free agency. According to Danny Green, the 27-year-old small forward is starting to feel “comfortable” and “at home” with the Raptors. Green added that Leonard is more different than his days in San Antonio.
“He’s definitely more vocal than he’s ever been, on and off the court. It looks like he feels comfortable. It looks like he feels at home,” Green said, via The Sports Network. “He’s talking to guys, he’s leading by example, in the huddles he’s chiming in, saying what he feels, saying his opinion. Before he didn’t really show or tell his opinion much… he’s leading vocally more than ever before.”
"He’s definitely more vocal than he’s ever been… It looks like he feels comfortable. It looks like he feels at home."
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 8, 2018
Danny Green’s statement is undeniably a nice thing to hear for the Raptors’ fans and a very bad news for the Los Angeles Lakers. When Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade from the Spurs, he named the Lakers as his preferred trade destination. Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka decided not to trade for Leonard, believing that they could acquire him next summer without giving up valuable assets.
However, as of now, it appears that the Lakers are making the same mistake when they passed on trading for Paul George in the last offseason. With his growing comfortability in Toronto, there is really a strong chance that Kawhi Leonard may really consider staying long-term with the Raptors. Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse shared the same thing as Danny Green, saying that Leonard becomes more “vocal” and trying to lead by example to his young teammates.
When the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, they immediately became one of the top favorite NBA teams to fully dominate the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference. Having a successful 2018-19 NBA season could further convince Leonard to extend his partnership with the Raptors.