By trading away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri demonstrated his belief that Toronto’s roster, as constructed pre-Kawhi Leonard, wasn’t going to get the job done against the Celtics or the rest of the Eastern Conference, reports Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.
But now that Leonard is a Raptor, the obvious question becomes, for how long? The Lakers, like most everyone else who follows or reports on the NBA, believe they will land Leonard next summer. Yet, the brass in L.A. felt the same way last summer when they saw Paul George, who publicly voiced his desire to play in Hollywood, be traded to the Thunder only to re-sign with Oklahoma City earlier this month without so much as a second look at the Lakers.
Per Mannix, however, this feels different. The Raptors don’t have an MVP sidekick to pair with Leonard like the Thunder have in Russell Westbrook, and as Chris Haynes of ESPN blunty tweeted earlier today, Leonard has “no desire” to play in Toronto. But then again, Toronto is not an undesirable city, it plays host to one of the most rabid fan bases in all of professional sports, and Ujiri will have an entire year to sell Leonard on a future in Canada.
Ultimately Ujiri, who another front office executive tagged as “really impressive” and a “tremendous asset,” chose to roll the dice on an MVP-caliber player knowing that there were risks attached. It remains to be seen, at least until next summer, whether Ujiri’s gamble will payoff.
There’s more from The North:
- In a subsequent tweet from Haynes, the ESPN scribe mentions how players around the NBA have not failed to notice that the Raptors have yet to make a statement thanking DeRozan for his contributions over a nine-year period with the franchise.
- In another article for Yahoo Sports, Michael Lee opines that the DeRozan/Leonard trade is unique because both of the marquee players involved are furious with the deal. For his part, DeRozan is particularly hurt because he claims to have been told by the Raptors just recently that he wouldn’t be traded out of Toronto. And after former franchise stars like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh bolted, it seems cruel for a player like DeRozan, who actually wanted to stay in Toronto, to be sent packing without his approval.
- In other Raptors‘ news, re-signed guard Fred VanVleet sat down with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype for a wide-ranging interview detailing everything from his free agency experience this summer and last season’s breakout performance to his thoughts on former coach Dwane Casey and new head coach Nick Nurse.