So, it appears as though the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard has asked for a trade. It’s been a weird season for Leonard, but here we are.
For our purposes, the most pressing question, obviously, is how the Raptors will get him, in spite of having zero high picks and few high value trade pieces. So let’s take a look at the best packages the team might be able to put together.
The usually construction of a trade for a superstar is a pile of picks and prospects, plus enough salary to make it work financially — usually attached to a player the receiving team likes, or thinks they can flip for more assets.
The obvious salary matching option for Kawhi straight up is Jonas Valanciunas. Kawhi makes just $18 million at the draft, so the Raptors can match his salary with Valanciunas alone — but also have some wiggle room to add some prospect contracts.
So something like Valanciunas, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright and the Raptors’ 2019 1st round pick might be the best offer they could put together.
Or maybe something built around smaller deals. If the trade happened this summer, a package of Norman Powell and C.J. Miles could add up to enough salary, so that when you throw in the prospects (including probably/possibly Jakob Poeltl if JV is not outgoing). This deal too works financially.
Now, the Spurs may also want to off-load salary, which the Raptors can’t really help with. Or, perhaps, they might want to get an established talent back and try to keep winning for the final few years (possibly) of coach Gregg Popovich’s career.
In which case...
Superstar for a Star
DeMar DeRozan has been the name on many lips among Raptors fans this spring already, and he’s probably the highest trade value piece on the team. So it makes sense to consider whether he could be the centrepiece of a trade with the Spurs.
DeRozan makes far more than Kawhi (about $10 million more this year, $7 million more come the summer), so this is a deal where the Spurs can off-load some salary they may not want.
You’d probably still include a prospect and a draft pick, but it would look something more like this:
DeRozan, Poeltl and 2019 1st for Kawhi and Gasol’s big salary.
The deal would have to happen in July to make the math work. If the Spurs still liked Powell, they could also swap Powell for Rudy Gay or Patty Mills in the deal. But the backbone would be the above.
I’m not sure how interested the Spurs would be in such an offer, but that’s the sort of deal the teams could build around Kawhi and DeMar.
But the reality is, the Spurs probably want to get real draft assets, which the Raptors don’t currently have.
But What If They Got Some?
There has been an idea floating around about the Raptors trying to trade DeRozan for a high pick at the upcoming draft. Well, if the Spurs are looking for draft assets in return, perhaps that’s an avenue the Raptors could chase to get the required assets.
There have been plenty of rumours, but let’s focus on the oft-proposed Memphis deal, which would be something along the lines of DeRozan for Chandler Parsons’ dead salary, the 4th pick and the 32nd pick.
Come draft night, that could be expanded out to a three team trade.
The Grizzlies still see the exact same trade — they get DeMar for Parsons and the two picks.
The Spurs would receive those picks, though, as well as prospects like Poeltl and Wright, Powell, and the Raptors’ 2019 1st rounder.
The Raptors would get Kawhi and take on Parsons’ contract, as well as Rudy Gay’s salary.
Full example deal:
Raptors send: DeRozan, Poeltl, Wright, Powell, 2019 1st
Raptors receive: Leonard, Gay, Parsons
Spurs send: Leonard, Gay
Spurs receive: 4th pick, 32nd pick, 2019 TOR 1st, Poeltl, Wright, Powell
Memphis send: 4th pick, 32nd pick, Parsons
Memphis receive: DeRozan
One might ask, if the 4th pick is the main price to get Leonard, why wouldn’t Memphis just trade for him? Well, Kawhi is a flight risk, with only one year on his deal. DeMar has two more years plus a player option. And ultimately it will come down to how risk averse teams are — Toronto seems like they are ready to take a chance on convincing Kawhi to stay long term. If Memphis isn’t up for that sort of risk, I can see why they wouldn’t get into the bidding themselves. Also, the Raptors are including a lot of prospect value in this deal.
This sort of construction can work with Dallas as well, though they seem less likely to trade for DeMar, though it’s easier with them as they can absorb some salary.
In any case, as with the LeBron James rumours, this will almost certainly not happen. But that last scenario seems to be the one possibility that’s not completely crazy — which in my experience means it wouldn’t be that hard for Masai Ujiri to pull off.
Sound off below, let me know what you think. Are the Raptors giving up too much? Not enough? Or is this meant to be? Should the Raptors even be chasing a guy who might leave next summer? Is it worth the risk?
It’s the craziest time of year. So then, tell me: is this crazy?