A Bad Trade for Toronto (4 Reasons Why)

The Toronto Raptors have traded DeMar DeRozen, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.  Take a look at the players transacted by Toronto and San Antonio below.

Kawhi trade

On a pure statistical comparison, the deal doesn’t seem so bad.  Toronto received, in theory, the best player in Kawhi Leonard and historically the best player wins the deal.  Along with Kawhi, Toronto also received a very good 3&D wing player in Danny Green.  Once we stratch below the surface a little, this deal begins to look lopsided (and shortsighted).

1. The Contracts

Focusing on the two main pieces of the trade, DeRozan and Kawhi, San Antonio received a player with 3 years remaining while Kawhi will become a free agent after the upcoming year.  Toronto must have a believe that they have a chance to convince Kawhi to sign long term, but preliminary reports that Kawhi is not pleased with the trade (and may not show up??? Probably speculation, but not a good sign nonetheless) are bad.

Some may argue that Toronto has effectively cleared their cap space for next Summer, but that is a flawed premise.  In doing so, they gave away two cap-controlled assets in an improving second year player and a draft pick.  Furthermore, what good is cap space if you can’t use it effectively, which brings us to….

2. What Superstar Free Agents has Toronto landed?

Toronto’s history of star players:

  • Tracy McGrady – drafted by Toronto and left via sign and trade to Orlando
  • Vince Carter – drafted by Toronto and traded to New Jersey
  • Chris Bosh – drafted by Toronto and signed with Miami in free agency
  • DeMar DeRozan – drafted by Toronto and traded to San Antonio

We’re sensing a theme here.  Historically, Toronto’s star players have come from the draft and they’ve struggled to hang on to them (though the most recent case appears to be a choice, since by all accounts DeRozan wanted to be in Toronto).

Too bad Toronto couldn’t hang on to any of these guys longer:

Toronto Stars

3. Boston is still far superior

Lowry / Leonard / Anunoby / Ibaka / Valanciunas


Irving / Brown / Hayward / Tatum / Horford

It’s no contest.  This Celtics team as constructed (IF HEALTHY) will win 62-67 games.  With that in mind, a one-year rental player does not make sense.

4. Optics

In recent history, NBA players have been increasingly outspoken on the lack of loyalty from NBA teams.  How many office workers could conceptualize a scenario where you, as an analyst, get traded to another company, in another state/city, and have to uproot your family?  Sure, NBA players are compensated at a much greater level than a typical worker, but it’s a difficult situation.

On the heels of the most recent example of business needs before player needs/wants (Isaiah Thomas traded to Cleveland, while injured, after playing injured in a playoff run), this type of trade where you let go of a star player that wanted to stay there will NOT help future free agent signings in Toronto.