It obviously didn’t come out of left field, as Kawhi Leonard made it known to the Spurs organization that he badly wanted to be dealt. And it puts a definitive punctuation mark on what had been an enchanted two-decade run of success in San Antonio. But the swap between the Spurs and the Raptors is fascinating for a handful of other reasons too.
For starters, it’s not often that a player of Leonard’s age and caliber joins a team that’s coming off a near-60-win season. (We’ve seen crazier things, of course. But still.) A healthy Leonard would be an obvious upgrade over Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan, largely because of how otherworldly Leonard is on the defensive end. For a while, it looked as if Toronto’s window might be closing — Kyle Lowry is 32, the Celtics and Sixers are young and loaded, and no matter what the Raptors did, they couldn’t find a way to beat LeBron in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But this move (and LeBron’s relocation to the West) figures to fully maximize whatever time Toronto has left to contend.