Jimmy Butler Going to Miami is a Good Sign for the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat have reportedly acquired Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s good news for the Toronto Raptors.

Jimmy Butler has reportedly been traded to the Miami Heat in a sign and trade deal for Josh Richardson. This is huge news for the Toronto Raptors on two fronts. One is that it has significantly weakened the Raps toughest opponents in the 2018 NBA playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers. Second is that it delivers a sledge-hammer-esq blow to the Los Angeles Clippers chances to land Kawhi Leonard.

Although the current deal has temporarily fallen through — over Derick Jones Jr. of all players — both the Heat and 76ers remain confident that eventually, Jimmy Butler will be on the move.

Why it’s a good sign

Some of the rumours in the twittersphere suggested that Kawhi Leonard desired to have a second star join him if he indeed decided to join the Los Angeles Clippers. There were two names that stood out as being potential pairings that could cause Kawhi to ditch Toronto for the Clips.

As we now know, Kevin Durant is headed to Brooklyn, and Jimmy Butler is headed to the Miami Heat. The KD pairing always seemed a little far-fetched, but when Adrian Wojnarowski is involved, you pay attention anyway. Marc Stein’s report, which was echoed by Sam Amick of the Athletic, seemed to carry more water.

With Jimmy Butler now off of the market, the Los Angeles Clippers situation becomes much less attractive. They were always the second-rate team in their own building, and with LeBron James, Anthony Davis now in the other locker-room, they have been belittled even further.

Being able to pair Kawhi with Butler seemed like the Los Angeles Clippers best possible pitch to Leonard. In Toronto, Kawhi has the benefit of a great medical staff, teammates he can trust, load management, and an NBA championship. The Clippers can still try to sell him on being in L.A., but it appears that big brother Los Angeles Lakers may now be in the driver’s seat to pry Kawhi from the Toronto Raptors.

Cris Carter is good friends with Uncle Dennis and has been the only trustworthy source when it comes to Kawhi Leonard since the 2017-2018 season. Leonard’s camp is notoriously tight-lipped, and Carter only spills what he has been allowed to by the Leonard camp.

With Boston, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia all less formidable than they were in 2018, Kawhi and his camp may very well realize that their easiest path to a title is to ‘run it back’ with the Toronto Raptors. A one plus one deal would allow him to re-enter free agency next season or in 2021, when he qualifies for the max contract pay increase afforded to NBA veterans of 10 years or more.

What’s Next

Kawhi is still planning to meet with both Los Angeles teams.  The Los Angeles Clippers were the Vegas favourites to land Kawhi if he heading into June 30th, but with Butler and Durant both off the market, their free-agent pitch may now be a lot less compelling.

The Lakers offer, however, looks stronger than ever. They have L.A, and they have a roster which can contend for the NBA title. There were reports that Leonard would not be receptive to being involved in the media circus that follows LeBron, but perhaps he is warming up to the idea with the Clippers no longer as attractive of a destination.

Next. Toronto Raptors free agency 2019: Who in East got better, who got worse. dark

To call it a two-team race is probably a hair too strong. However, with Jimmy Butler now out of the picture, the Raptors are in a better position than they were to start the day.