Written by Duncan Lambert (@bigdaddylambert)
There has been a lot of coverage surrounding Wednesday morning’s blockbuster deal and rightfully so, rarely are two all-nba players swapped for one another. There have been many storylines surrounding this deal, some bad, some good, and if you don’t feel like wading through the minor details of the trade, I present the most important takeaways.
1) The Raptors got a lot better.
When an identical or similar phrase has been uttered during the past 48 or so hours it has come with the disclaimer of “if Kawhi’s healthy” or “if Kawhi’s motivated”, but fuck it, if Kawhi is back to 50% of his 2016-17 ability (ya know the year he should have won MVP) then he’s a major upgrade over Derozan. Not only that but the Raps also recieved an extremely valuable piece in Danny Green. Has Green been declining over the past few years? Yes. Is he still 10 times the defender Demar ever was? Yes.
2) The Raptors now matchup much better against the Celtics, Sixers & Bucks
With LeBron out of the east, the Sixers & Celtics have received the most attention as the new teams to beat in the east. I’ll throw the Bucks in too because Giannis is poised to make another leap, I’m a believer in Budenholzer, but mostly because this will never get old. (Neither will this.)
Realistically, here is TO’s finishing five:
Option 1: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam
Option 2: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Danny Green, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard
Both of those are a ton of fun. Lowry and Green can both guard above their weight classes, OG and Siakam are more than capable of guarding multiple positions, Delon Wright was used as a primary defender on Ben Simmons last year, and Kawhi is, well, Kawhi. The biggest problem would be trying to guard Embiid but I have a guy in mind.*
*- For anyone who will argue Al Horford would wreak havoc across those lineups you are correct because that guy wreaks havoc on all defensive lineups.
3) Stop This BS About Kawhi not wanting to play in Toronto
Kawhi has been clear that he wants to play in LA and since I can’t smell the Pacific ocean I’m pretty certain he didn’t get his wish. That being said it’s not that he does not want to play in Toronto, he would just rather be playing somewhere else. A metaphor perhaps? Pretty much anyone working any job ever.
Yes, I see the irony in Kawhi wanting to be traded to LA and ending up in possibly the NBA’s coldest city (don’t sleep on Minnesota) but when I see expert, in-depth analysis like this:
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
4) If the Raptors have another early playoff exit and Kawhi leaves don’t panic.
Messiah Ujiri played this rather well. The only contract on the books for the Raptors after the 2019-2020 season is Norman Powell. At that point, you know what I’m thinking?
5) We now have another amazing ‘NBA what-if’ to ponder.
It began with the nose of Len Bias and possibly peaked with the Beard of OKC being traded to Houston. NBA what-ifs are always a fun talking point and we have a potential hall of famer in play now: What if the Raptors didn’t fire Dwayne Casey before acquiring Kawhi Leonard? The coach who shut down Lebron in the 2011 finals could have combined forces with the player who shut down Lebron in the 2014 finals. For anyone saying Dwayne had enough shots at toppling Lebron while in TO, he never had a player who came anywhere close to possessing the kind of defensive abilities that Kawhi does. Bet that stings a little for Dwayne. Oh well, late nights staring across the water at the beautiful Windsor, Ontario skyline heals all wounds. For now, we place our faith in the hands (and clean shaven chin) of Nick Nurse.
Duncan the Intern just finished his third year at Bishop’s University where he literally only shoots threes for the varsity men’s basketball (seriously you can look it up). He firmly believes that the ‘85-‘86 Celtics are the greatest NBA team of all time and that Elon Musk is a real life super villain. Blog boy for life.