The reactions of basketball fans in Toronto and San Antonio have ranged from shock to resignation to giddiness after the trade earlier this week of DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs, who traded their own superstar, Kahwi Leonard, to Toronto.
Officially, the trade that was approved by the NBA sent Leonard along shooting guard Danny Green to Toronto in exchange for the Spurs getting DeRozan along with big man Jakos Poeltl and a top 20 protected 2019 draft pick.
The trade has an immediate effect on the teams’ odds to win the NBA title. For the Raptors, according to a consensus of betting sites, they went from 40 to 1 down to 20 to 1. For the Spurs, they went up from 25 to 1 all the way to 200 to 1. The Spurs, however, do play in the much tougher Western Conference. For the best list of online bookmakers, CLICK HERE.
DeRozan was a four-time NBA All-Star in Toronto and by all accounts wanted to stay north of the border for the duration of his NBA career. Leonard won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, but only played nine games last season due to injury.
Without getting into all the details, Leonard had become dissatisfied with the Spurs, who didn’t want to risk having Leonard leave next summer as a free agent with nothing in return. They found what they thought was a great partner in Toronto, which had the best record in the NBA Eastern Conference last season before once again running into LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Both teams could benefit from the deal. For it to work well in Toronto, however, that probably will require Leonard having an outstanding season and then at least considering that he might sign with the Raptors next summer. DeRozan improved as a shooter that last few seasons in Toronto, but his percentages fell off late in 2018. The Spurs are well-known for their tendencies to make good shooters great and average shooters very good.
DeRozan and Leonard both have had difficulties in their youth. DeRozan grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Compton before he became a standout at Compton High. Leonard had to endure the shooting death of his father when he was a junior in high school at a car wash not far from Compton.
As high schoolers, DeRozan was more of a big-time national recruit than Leonard and was a 2008 McDonald’s All-American before he headed to USC. In his senior year at Compton, he averaged 29.2 ppg and was even a 20 point varsity scorer as a freshman. Leonard had mostly mid-major offers, but in his senior year at M.L. King of Riverside he stepped it up so much and was so effective on defense that he eventually became the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year. In his senior year at M.L. King, Leonard had averages of 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
As NBA draft picks, both have exceeded expectations. DeRozan was the the ninth overall pick in the first round in 2009 by the Raptors. Leonard, who went to college at San Diego State, was the 15th overall in 2011 by the Indiana Pacers and was later traded to the Spurs.
In this golden age of top-flight NBA superstars from California (DeRozan, Leonard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damien Lillard, Klay Thompson, etc.), it’s fun to see two of them basically swapped for each other. It is hoped that in the big picture careers of both players that the trade is a win-win for everyone involved.