ReGrade the Trade: Raptors land superstar wing to lead them to a championship

Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages
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Regrading the deal for Raptors

There are a few different layers to understanding this trade for the Toronto Raptors. Masai Ujiri was taking a risk trading for an injured star heading toward free agency, but once he decided to take that swing, he also had to negotiate the best possible deal with the Spurs.

In terms of the trade that he negotiated, Ujiri absolutely wiped the floor with Gregg Popovich, R. C. Buford and the Spurs. He included a decent prospect in Jakob Poeltl and a single first-round pick likely to land late in the first round. He did not include any of his best young players, keeping Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. VanVleet and Siakam in particular would be crucial to Toronto's success that next season and beyond.

Even if the Raptors merely had a good season, perhaps losing in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks, the cost to this deal was likely worth the chance at a magical season. Yet this deal doesn't have to be evaluated on propobability, because the Toronto Raptors did the seemingly unthinkable: they won the 2019 Championship.

What's more, Kawhi Leonard was unquestionably the centerpiece of that team, a bona fide Top 10 player who was unstoppable in the playoffs. His Game 7 buzzer-beating game winner against the 76ers famously bounced on the rim four times before falling in, the most iconic shot in franchise history. Leonard rightfully won his second Finals MVP trophy with his second team.

The only thing that could have gone better for this trade was if Kawhi had re-signed with the Raptors; he walked away in free agency and instead signed with the LA Clippers. Given his injury history since that point, however, it may have worked out in the Raptors' favor not to be tied to Leonard.

This was a risk worth taking, a fleecing of a negotiation, and the centerpiece move that brought the first title in franchise history to the Toronto Raptors. That's the definition of an "A+" trade.

Grade: A+

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