By Cole Parkinson
John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf and now the Toronto Raptors are the betting favourites to land San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to website Oddshark.com.
How things have changed in Toronto!
Don’t get too excited now though because even though the Raps are betting favourites doesn’t mean they are going to land Leonard, quite the opposite really.
Coming after a Brian Windhorst report where he said the Raps have a shot at landing the small forward, the betting odds were adjusted in Las Vegas.
A lot of people assume that because they are the betting favourites, it means they are the most likely to make the trade.
Now sure, Toronto obviously have a shot at landing Leonard, but the reason they rose in the betting odd ranks was because Raptor and NBA fans started putting money on them making a trade.
Vegas has to adjust the odds when large amounts of bets are being placed on a certain bet otherwise they could be in big trouble if the deal actually happens, hence why they are the betting favourites.
I’m no professed betting specialist by any means but just because the Raps are one of the favourites in Vegas doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
But if it did?
Man, that would be huge for the Raptors to acquire a top-five player in the Association.
The biggest problem though is Kawhi’s deal is in its final year.
Another huge factor is Leonard’s health after only suiting up for nine games last year.
Reports and rumours spread that Leonard had no intentions of wanting to play in a Spurs uniform anymore which lead to further reports that the locker room was turning on Kawhi.
If he didn’t want to play in San Antonio, who says he will want to play for the Raptors?
There is a possibility the same thing could happen in Toronto as it did in San Antonio, the risks are there for sure.
It’s been no secret that he wants to be in Los Angeles, preferably with the Lakers, so if the Raptors do make a trade for him, there is a big possibility it would be only for one year.
Toronto is never thought of as a premier NBA destination but I think it’s starting to gain a better reputation as a rabid, passionate fan base.
So they would basically have a full season to showcase what it means to be a Raptor in Toronto and everything that comes with it to Leonard in hopes that he likes what he sees.
You don’t have to look very far for an incredibly similar scenario with Paul George, who was also rumoured to be going to the Lakers before signing a four-year deal to stay in Oklahoma City.
The entire season everyone expected George to take off to L.A. but he decided to stay, so what’s the likelihood the same could happen here?
I’d say very slim but hey, DeMar DeRozan resigned, Kyle Lowry resigned and to a lower extent, Fred VanVleet resigned. In the words of Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible.”
A trade for Leonard though would be a tricky thing for the Raps management staff as the Spurs no doubt want a boatload of assets back.
They have the young pieces to do it in OG Anunoby among others and they would likely have to include a full-time NBA player, likely one of DeMar or Kyle, in order for San Antonio to take the deal.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to include DeMar, though that would almost certainly need to happen.
DeMar is the best Raptor of all time (yeah I said it) and trading him after signing to stay in Toronto would hurt, especially if Kawhi took off after the year.
DeMar has stuck with the Raps through good and bad and he really is the face of the Raptors.
It’s pretty tough to trade a guy who was drafted and developed by Toronto for one-year of Kawhi Leonard, in my opinion.
A lot of takes have been the Raps should go for it right now because LeBron is now in the west, leaving Toronto, Philly and Boston as the three favourites to come out of the east.
Basically, that means one of those three teams will get the honour to be beaten by the Golden State Warriors in the final.
Giving up young pieces and an NBA everyday player for one year of Kawhi Leonard doesn’t make much sense to me especially when you know they aren’t beating Golden State.
The talk with the Raps has been to build with young pieces for when Warriors finally take a step backwards but with Leonard available, focus has shifted which slightly baffles me.
Adding Leonard no doubt makes them a better team but not better than Golden State.
If there were guarantees of signing an extension with the Raps, I’d be more in favour of acquiring Kawhi but right now, I’m on the fence.
Of course, this is all hypothetical and until something does happen, I expect the Raps to make a few more moves but I don’t see anything too drastic.
They won a franchise-best 59 games last year and of course, LeBron is in the west so really their biggest obstacle will be the Celtics, who no doubt will be even better next year if Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving can stay healthy for the full year.
The 76ers will be improved too with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continuing to grow into NBA superstars.
So even with their arch nemesis LeBron gone to L.A., the path to the NBA Finals still isn’t a guaranteed thing.
And if they do manage to win the Eastern Conference Finals, it may as well be an NBA Championship.