DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard just swapped teams. Here’s why it’s a great deal for the San Antonio Spurs.
The San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors have struck a deal exchanging star players Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs will receive DeRozan, Jakob Poetl and a protected first round pick. In return, the Raptors will receive Leonard and Danny Green.
The deal brings an anticlimactic end to the Kawhi Leonard saga that NBA fans have been so closely following since the start of last season. The trade comes as a bit of a surprise, as Leonard apparently had “no desire to play in Toronto,” as reported by Chris Haynes of ESPN less than 24 hours before the trade was announced.
After refusing to play for the better part of the 2017-18 season and making it clear he wanted to play in Los Angeles, Leonard will instead be moving up north. Raptors fans should be excited, as Leonard is now arguably the best player in the Eastern Conference (when healthy). As for the Spurs, they will get a valuable first round pick to help their rebuild process, a serviceable big man, and an All-Star shooting guard whose style of play is perfect for their system.
Let’s take a look at the top three reasons DeMar DeRozan is a perfect fit for the San Antonio Spurs, and why he will play a critical role in the next generation of Spurs basketball.
3. Veteran leadership
The question is actually still up for debate as to whether or not this is a rebuild season for the Spurs. On the one hand, they clearly have nowhere near enough talent to compete with the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets.
On the other, they now have two All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, and some very intriguing up-and-coming pieces such as draft selection Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White. Whether they make a strong attempt to remain competitive this season or not, DeRozan’s veteran leadership and playoff experience will be a huge help to the young players on the roster.
DeRozan is a four-time All-Star who has been to the playoffs five times in his career. He has a wealth of experience in the postseason, even if he does have the tendency to underperform when the going gets tough. For the young guys on the Spurs roster, playing alongside him will be an invaluable experience. Someone like Walker, who needs to work on his consistency and efficiency, can learn a lot from a mentor like DeRozan.
— #ThePlug (@ThePlug210) July 18, 2018
Whether it’s fighting for a playoff spot, making a postseason run, or simply going through the motions in a losing regular season, the young Spurs will benefit immensely from the presence of the longtime Raptors star.
Team loyalty is something that is hard to come by in today’s NBA. Players change teams faster than you can keep track of. It seems like every season, super-teams disassemble and reassemble in all sorts of different combinations.
DeRozan is one of the few players in the league who has a strong sense of loyalty. For nine years, he was loyal to the Raptors, and gave them all his commitment and energy. Now, he feels betrayed by his old team. Although he will now be putting on a new uniform, at his core he is a player who knows what loyalty is — and now he has landed on a team that appreciates that.
During free agency two years ago, DeMar DeRozan didn’t meet with any teams other than the Raptors. pic.twitter.com/zN0gU79Fxo
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) July 18, 2018
The San Antonio Spurs organization is famous for its loyal players. The quartet of head coach Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan endured from 2002-16 — that’s 14 years! Duncan retired as a lifetime Spur, Ginobili will certainly do the same, and Parker is the only one who will be left out — and it is by his own doing, not that of the Spurs.
The Raptors traded their most valuable player for someone who refused to play a whole season when his team needed him and made it clear he didn’t want play in Toronto. Now DeRozan will join the ranks of all the loyal Spurs of past, present and future, and he can rest assured that his new home will not play games with him or take him for granted.