After being swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second consecutive year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Toronto Raptors decided to make a huge roster shakeup in the 2018 NBA offseason. The Raptors engaged in a blockbuster trade deal with the San Antonio Spurs where they included their most loyal player, DeMar DeRozan, in a trade package to acquire Kawhi Leonard.
Before the deal became official, it was revealed that Kawhi Leonard wasn’t the only superstar that the Raptors targeted on the trade market. According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Raptors President Masai Ujiri also explored the idea of trading DeMar DeRozan to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George.
“I have a mandate… to win a championship,” Ujiri said. “You can’t continue doing the same thing over and over again. We gave a chance to (that) team. We tried to build it as much as we can.”
Mannix didn’t reveal any further details regarding the negotiation, but it seems like the Thunder immediately ended the trade talks when the Raptors asked for Paul George. No one can blame the Raptors for being aggressive on the trade market involving their star players. The explosive backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has shown promise when they carried the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in their franchise history. However, in the past three years of trying to fully dominate the Eastern Conference, the Raptors suffered a massive defeat whenever they faced LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
The failed Paul George-for-DeMar DeRozan somewhat benefited the Thunder and the Raptors. The Thunder succeeded to re-sign George in the recent free agency, and as of now, the All-Star forward has shown better chemistry with Russell Westbrook and is playing the best season of his NBA career, averaging 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.2 steals on 45.0 percent shooting from the field and 38.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard no longer showed any sign of a player that came from a serious injury last season. Leonard is already back to his All-Star form and carrying the Raptors to the top of the Eastern Conference. However, trading DeMar DeRozan for Leonard is a huge gamble for the Raptors as “The Claw” could become an unrestricted free agent next summer. When he demanded a trade from the Spurs, there were rumors that Leonard is interested in joining one of his hometown teams next summer. However, Raptors President Masai Ujiri expressed strong confidence that they can convince Leonard to re-sign like what the Thunder did to Paul George.