How the Clippers trade hurts the Toronto Raptors chances re-signing Kawhi

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Clippers traded away Tobias Harris for an impressive package in return. Here’s how Clippers’ gain may be trouble for the Toronto Raptors’ future.

Well, the Toronto Raptors didn’t get to enjoy that win over the Sixers for very long, did they? Within hours of an impressive win on the road against a very good Philadelphia team, the Raptors received what could only be interpreted as bad news.

The six-man trade between the Sixers and Clippers has redefined what the NBA landscape could look for years to come. Not only will the trade impact the Raptors chances at winning the Eastern Conference, but it also has the chance to seriously impact their chances at re-signing Kawhi Leonard.

The Clippers and Their Pot of Gold

With Philadelphia viewing their opportunity to contend for a championship now, and not in the distant future, they were willing to give up a slew of picks for the dynamic, all-star calibre wing. In total, the Sixers gave up two second-round picks, a nice young prospect in Landry Shamet, and a pair of first-rounders to the Clippers in exchange for Harris. Included is a 2021 unprotected Miami Heat pick that could end up being a top-three calibre pick if Miami continues to slide down the standings.

Cue the New Orleans Pelicans. While the Clippers front office hasn’t confirmed that the deal was made to lure Anthony Davis, it certainly makes an awful lot of sense. The Clippers were one of four teams on Davis’s list of preferred destinations (the Bucks, Knicks, and Lakers were the others).

And the fact that the deal was done on Wednesday, ensures that the Clippers still have time to at least explore something before the 3 PM deadline Thursday. If nothing transpires, the Clippers are still in an advantageous place this off-season to trade for the Pelicans all-star. The trade has also positioned the Clippers to add a second big name this summer.

Kawhi’s Free Agency

And this is where the news may take a turn for the worse for Raptor fans. It is no secret that the Clippers have long coveted Leonard, a southern California native. They have made some ‘interesting’ moves that have certainly raised some eyebrows.

Lawrence Frank, the President of the Clippers, has frequented several Raptor games this season. Whether this was done to scout or to demonstrate his team’s commitment and interest to Kawhi will never be known. But it certainly is unusual for the President of a team to be making these trips. Just last week team owner Steve Ballmer watched the Clippers play the Raptors in Toronto. Again, it doesn’t mean anything. But then again, it does.

The second team from LA has been rumored to be at the top of Kawhi’s list for a long time. While Leonard has never come out and confirmed or denied any of this, insiders have long speculated the Clippers as a potential destination.

Leonard sees what is happening. He understands mountains are being moved to lure him. He has the opportunity to control his future, move closer to home, and contend for a championship with a stud like Davis. All of a sudden, Toronto doesn’t look like that perennial contender, that automatic to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals every year.

Kawhi buying a house three hours away from LA, the dismissal of Bruce Bowen, Leonard not liking Toronto… All these things are speculation, rumours, hearsay which really mean nothing. What does matter is the Clippers two max-contract slots, and now a slew of future assets.

Raptors Forced To Make a Move?

So where does this leave the Raptors? The ascension of the Bucks to the top of the East, the potential of a Celtics team figuring it out, and Philly’s new Big Four should all have Masai and company at least a little worried. Couple that with internal issues – poor three-point shooting, a bench that has lost its punch, and two best players who don’t really play together – and you’ve got a sense of urgency.

This was always going to be a Finals or Bust year. The thinking was, bring in Leonard, advance through a weaker East, show Kawhi Toronto is a great city and that he can win. Every year. That he can be part of something special and possibly make a run at the Warriors dynasty in a LeBron-less conference consistently.

Those aren’t automatic anymore. Other challengers have risen in the east and options out west look a lot clearer than they did a few months ago. The Raptors have been pushed into a corner.

Is the addition of a three-point shooter like Wes Matthews or Wayne Ellington really going to make a difference at this point? Or do the Raptors now have to swing for the fences and take another hard look at a bigger move, a franchise-altering move?

Next. How the 76ers trade impacts the Raptors. dark

These are tough decisions that Ujiri and Bobby Webster are going to have to think long and hard about. Because the immediate and long-term consequences of the wrong path could be devastating.