When Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri made the ultimate decision to trade away the franchise’s greatest player in DeMar Derozan to the San Antonio Spurs in return for Kawhi Leonard and then some, the deciding factor was winning. Not winning down the line, but now, in 2018-19.
Though Derozan is beloved in the city of Toronto, how much longer could the team stick around with he and Kyle Lowry at the helm? Over the past three seasons, Toronto has struggled to excel further than the second round of the playoffs and overall have been a disappointment once they reach the postseason after a couple of successful regular seasons including being the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference in 2017-18.
Believe it or not, LeBron James—as he always has in his career—effected, once again, another team to put a halt to their plans and do whatever they could to win. With James’ decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference became open for the taking. Toronto saw their opportunity to strike with the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green), putting their trust in the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year to fill out a strong, bounce-back 2018-19 season instead of another year of getting beaten in the playoffs with DeMar Derozan.
The race for top dog in the Eastern Conference in 2018-19 will come down to Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.
I feel bad for DeMar a bit. He was loyal to Toronto and that entire franchise. But at the end of the day.. It's a business. Raptors had to shake things up. The past three or four years they've wet the bed in the playoffs.
— Allen (@killerhandles) July 18, 2018
With the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors got even stronger, but he’ll likely only be around temporarily. Leonard, who becomes a free-agent in 2019, has the potential to sign elsewhere if his first season in “The Six” doesn’t shape out. A sub-par defender, DeMar Derozan led Toronto to the No. 1 seed in the East in 2017-18. Leonard, when healthy, is arguably the better player and an extreme upgrade on the defensive end. It’ll be interesting to see what a healthy Kawhi Leonard will bring to Toronto.
Raptors new squad could be dangerous, might be kings of the East next year🔥
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Jonas Valaciunas
🔘Fred Van Vleet
🔘 C.J. Miles
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 18, 2018
The talk of the NBA world prior to the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline was New Orleans Pelicans fo…