San Antonio star forward Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday for guard DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 protected first-round pick. The Raptors also received guard Danny Green. It ends months of speculation of where Leonard would go after he told the Spurs he no longer wanted to be part of the organization.
His choice was to go to the Los Angeles Lakers and join LeBron James. Instead of going to a Western Conference rival, he was shipped north of the border to the Eastern Conference contender.
When the trade talks heated up in June, Leonard was a favorite to the Boston Celtics. BetDSI had the Celtics at +200, followed the Philadelphia 76ers at +300, staying with the Spurs at +500. The Lakers were fourth at +1200.
Toronto wasn’t even in the conversation, and oddsmakers didn’t have them listed. That changed last week when rumors of the Raptors working a deal for Leonard began to leak. Betmybookie had Toronto as the +200 favorite, along with staying with the Spurs.
Principles Furious Over Trade
ESPN reported that a source told one of their reporters that Leonard was not happy about the trade. It was about the last squad he wanted to play for next season.
DeRozan was outraged that he was going to San Antonio, especially after he had a meeting with management on Tuesday in Las Vegas assuring him he was staying with the organization.
When the deal was announced the four-time all star took to Instagram to voice his ire about what he perceived as a betrayal.
“Be told one thing & the outcome another,.” DeRozan posted. “ Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing.”
Making Best of Bad Situation
San Antonio head coach and president of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich tried to keep Leonard with the club, and said that he thought the relationship was salvageable. When it turned out that it couldn’t be saved, he worked on getting the most value for Leonard.
Reports that he wanted too much from the Lakers apparently quashed any deal. Leonard is a free agent at the end of next season, so getting something for him now was better than receiving nothing after the 2018-19 season.
“We talked often over the summer, about a lot of different things both on and off the court,” Popovich said to reporters Wednesday in San Antonio. “So attempts were made to see what would be best and in the end, this trade appeared and we felt that this was the way to go.”
The move, however, didn’t appear to appease sportsbook operators over the Spurs fortunes next season. They were 25/1 to win the NBA Championship when odds opened June 2 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. They plummeted to 80/1 on July 9. After the trade was announced to went into a free fall, plunging to 200/1 on Wednesday.
The Raptors, however, watched their chances at the title improve. In June they were 40/1, then slipped to 60/1 the second week of July. Wednesday they went to 20/1. Their odds to win the East also got better. They were 7/1 last week, but are now 4/1, behind the Philadelphia 76ers at 5/2 and the Boston Celtics at 4/5.