The good news, for Raptors fans: Kawhi Leonard is reportedly heading to Toronto in a trade. The potential bad news for Raptors fans, but good news for Lakers fans and fans of NBA drama:
Yahoo first reported that the Spurs and Raptors were “engaged in serious talks” on a deal that would send disgruntled Kawhi Leonard north in a deal for DeMar DeRozan. ESPN then offered stronger wording, saying that the sides were “finalizing” the deal, and it could be announced as early as today.
It’s a package deal, with multiple players going both ways, though as of this morning only DeRozan is publicly known (and has been informed), according to Adrian Wojnarowski. (Update: Woj has the other pieces. Danny Green is also going to Toronto, and Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick are coming back.) There are, of course, big complications here—Leonard is a free agent next summer, and he quasi–held out this year, and he’s already got 2019 plans. From ESPN:
Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is taking a significant risk in pursuing the trade. Ujiri will make the deal with a determination that he can sell Leonard on re-signing with the Raptors next summer in free agency, sources said. Toronto would be able to offer Leonard a five-year, $190 million contract next summer. If Leonard left the Raptors, he could sign a four-year, $141 million deal with a team with the available salary-cap space.
Leonard has been clear that he plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency next summer.
DeRozan’s pissed about the trade too! Late last night he posted an Instagram story and it’s not particularly cryptic. “Be told one thing & the outcome another,” DeRozan wrote. “Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing.”
DeRozan has two more years under contract, and a player option for 2020–21. He’s a pretty good return for Leonard for the Spurs, especially since San Antonio didn’t have a ton of leverage. (They did have the ability to send Leonard somewhere they knew he didn’t want to go, and thus denude his likelihood of signing a five-year max contract instead of a four-year deal.)
Will Leonard even play? Could the Raptors flip him? Does clearing DeRozan’s deal mean they have big plans for next summer’s star free agent class? Does Leonard even hate this trade more than DeRozan does? It’s going to be a wild year.