Toronto Raptors: How Kawhi Leonard Trade Weakens the Toronto Raptors

San Antonio Spurs - Kawhi Leonard and Dann Green (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs - Kawhi Leonard and Dann Green (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

On July 18th 2018, the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in a deal that many people believe makes the Raptors a better team overall. On the flip side, however, this article will analyze the potential drawbacks of this trade and consider… how does the Kawhi Leonard trade weaken the Toronto Raptors?

On balance, the Toronto Raptors definitely should have made this trade. Here, we are simply considering three reasons why this deal cannot be labeled as perfect and how trading for Leonard & Green may hinder the Raptors this upcoming season and beyond.


Note: This part of the article will ignore the secondary pieces changing teams here, as Jakob Poeltl and Danny Green are not known for putting up significant point totals.

Acquiring Kawhi Leonard and, in turn, losing DeMar DeRozan means that the Toronto Raptors are likely going to take a step back in their scoring next season.

Make no mistake, Leonard does many things better than DeRozan. However, there are also places on the stat sheet where DeMar has the edge.

One of the most potent statistical categories where DeRozan edges out Leonard is points. A career 19.7 point per game (PPG) scorer, DeRozan has consistently proven to be better at putting the ball in the basket than Leonard – who is a career 16.3 PPG scorer himself. While the margin is minor and Leonard is a fine scorer in his own right, much of DeMar’s game throughout his nine-year career has been focused on offense. A score-first (appropriately named) shooting guard, DeRozan is known for his ability to score the basketball and his 2017-2018 rank as the league’s 11th best per-game point producer proves just that. Although trading for Leonard should still prove valuable for Toronto, his acquisition – through the loss of DeRozan – will likely mean an unfortunate regression in scoring for the Raptors next season.


The Raptors made a trade. Naturally, the level of team chemistry will take a hit as they need to incorporate two new players while two familiar faces are gone. With Poeltl, his role as a key part of the team’s “bench mob” last season means that the chemistry for that particular group may be shaken as they learn to adjust without him.

Moreover, Danny Green’s arrival poses another chemistry conundrum for the Raptors. First, it is unclear whether he will be starting or coming off the bench in Toronto. Some predictions have him as the team’s starting shooting guard while other ideas have OG Anunoby in that spot. If he starts, the Raptors will have to adjust to using his spot up three-point shooting strengths in a way they did not when DeMar was in town. If he comes off the bench, the bench group will likely have to adjust around giving him more shots than they would have with the departed Poeltl. No matter where he slots in on the team though, the key here is that there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period while Green gets acclimated in Toronto.

Finally, DeRozan had been with the Toronto Raptors for nine seasons, six of which he played alongside the team’s other leader in Kyle Lowry. DeRozan’s departure will surely take time to recover from, particularly considering that Toronto is welcoming a significantly less-vocal superstar in Leonard. This is not to say that Kawhi will cause a rift in Toronto. However, we would be mistaken to assume that the team – and specifically, Kyle Lowry – can just pick up from where they left off without some kind of adjustment period around playing with their new star teammate.

Long-Term Competitiveness

This point goes back to the most common complaint regarding this trade. The reality that the Raptors only have one guaranteed year with Leonard and Green – as opposed to the two guaranteed years (plus one year player option) with DeRozan – means that Toronto’s competitiveness has been slightly compromised with this deal. In other words, with this trade, the Raptors risk losing both acquisitions and becoming less competitive in the NBA as soon as next offseason, whereas the situation would be less dire without the trade.

Since DeRozan’s term matches up with Lowry and Ibaka, keeping DeMar would have enabled Toronto to stay competitive and relevant in the NBA for a few extra years. By trading DeRozan for Leonard though, the Raptors set themselves up to start a rebuild sooner than they would have otherwise.

Beyond that, there is also the reality that DeMar would have likely re-signed with Toronto if he was kept, further adding to the Raptors’ ability to stay relevant in the NBA for a longer period of time. While nothing is certain, almost all experts believe Leonard is headed to Los Angeles at season’s end. For that reason, the Raptors would presumably become less competitive as early as 2019-20. While DeMar would have likely re-signed in Toronto – and finished his career here, based on his clear affinity for the city – trading for Leonard means that, for better or for worse, Toronto’s longevity as a formidable squad in this league takes a hit overall.

Ultimately, there are a great amount of ways that trading for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will make the Toronto Raptors a better team next season. Regardless, it is equally important to be cognisant of the prospective pitfalls with this trade, particularly because there are such high-profile players on the move. At the end of the day though, there is only one way to truly tell if any of these drawbacks come to fruition… but for that we must wait until the Raptors tip off their season against the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers on October 17th in Toronto.

Agree or disagree with where this article believes the Toronto Raptors will get weaker after the Kawhi Leonard/Danny Green trade? Share your thoughts in the comments below.