Kawhi Leonard Trade: Who Were the Winners and Losers?

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs pumps his fist after making a three point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies in game four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 22, 2017 in Memphis. Leonard has been traded to Toronto. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After months of denials, half-hearted attempts at reconciliation and lots of posturing, Kawhi Leonard has finally got the one-way ticket out of San Antonio he craved.

Danny Green will join him on the flight to Toronto, while All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, young big man Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick—which is protected if it falls between numbers 1 to 20—go the opposite route.

The fact the trade was almost totally unexpected until a few days ago, as well as the caliber of the players involved, make it one of the biggest deals the league has seen in recent years. However, with neither Leonard nor DeRozan reportedly too excited about their new destinations, some feel the swap could manage the rare feat of disappointing both sides.

Newsweek has looked at the winners and losers from the trade.

Winner—Toronto Raptors

Leonard's last season with the Spurs was characterized by doubts over his fitness. Specifically, nobody seemed to know how serious his injury actually was.

The 27-year-old hasn't played since January, and while it is difficult to gauge where he stands in terms of fitness, the Raptors are getting a player who averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game in the 2016-17 season.

With DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt the Raptors topped the Eastern Conference last year, but were dismantled by Cleveland in the second round of playoffs. After swapping coach Dwane Casey for Nick Nurse, Toronto had to shake up its roster—and has done so in spectacular fashion. Will it pay off for them?

Loser—Also Toronto Raptors

They might have signed one of the top five players in the league, but it's one who, according to league sources quoted by ESPN's Chris Haynes, "has no desire" to play in Toronto.

Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.

— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018

The risk and reward for the Raptors is obvious. Get the best out of Leonard and they have a reasonable shot at making the NBA Finals and even convince him to stay with the team—as Oklahoma has done with Paul George.

However, in the worst case scenario, the Raptors don't win next season and Leonard leaves in 12 months.

Winner—Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has made no mystery of his desire to move to Los Angeles and was strongly tipped to join LeBron at the Lakers. Toronto might not be his preferred destination, but the 2014 NBA Finals MVP can—and in all likelihood will—become a free agent next summer and can therefore limit his stay in Canada to one season—if he wants to.

Additionally, there could have been worse teams to join than one regularly in contention in the playoffs.

Loser—The rest of the Eastern Conference

LeBron James' decision to swap Cleveland for Los Angeles deprived the East of its most iconic player. It also prompted the suggestion the Western Conference had all the talent, while the East was reduced to the basketball equivalent of an industrial wasteland.

While a quick glance at the Sixers and Celtics' rosters went some way to dismiss that theory, there is no doubt the East was trailing the West in terms of stardust.

Kawhi's arrival changes that. It also means the expected showdown between Philadelphia and Boston might not happen after all. The Raptors had the best record in the East last year and have added one of the top five players in the league, so they'll be a force to be reckoned with.

Winner—Gregg Popovich

Yes, Pop has lost a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but he will be happy the circus surrounding Leonard is finally over. "At this point, my main interest is definitely not to look back," the Spurs coach said, as quoted by ESPN. "It doesn't do us any good whatsoever. I am thrilled to have DeMar and Jakob join us. From that point on, that is where my focus will be. I am not too interested in talking about the past."

Loser—San Antonio Spurs

In May, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor quoted multiple NBA executives as saying San Antonio would not settle for anything less than a "grand-slam" offer for Leonard.

While the trade package they have received from Toronto is hardly disappointing, it does not quite fit the "grand-slam" bill. At the same time, that might be as good as it was ever going to get for the Spurs. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, San Antonio received offers from Portland, Boston and Philadelphia, but none of them were prepared to part ways with their prized assets.

The Blazers wouldn't include Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum in a package, the Sixers considered Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz off-limit and the Celtics made clear Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford would not be traded.

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