When the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard, the move was met with a healthy amount of skepticism. Why give up the cornerstone of the franchise, DeMar DeRozan, for a guy few expect to stay once the 2018-19 season (and his contract) is done?
With all the media attention given to his desire to play in Los Angeles, it seemed like they were giving up a lot for a one-year rental. But now that the team has earned a spot in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, most would say the price was worth it.
Of course, it would really be worth it if he resigns in the offseason.
Following his miracle-bounce shot that won Game Seven of the series against the 76ers, oddsmakers had the Clippers favored to acquire him. But now that the Raptors are in the NBA Finals, it appears that the odds have shifted yet again (via MyBookie.ag):
- Toronto Raptors -110
- Los Angeles Clippers +110
- Los Angeles Lakers +200
- Brooklyn Nets +400
- New York Knicks +500
- The Field +300
So, why the shift? Why the odds shifted in favor of the Clippers was kind of confusing, but it is not hard to see why the odds may have moved this time. Leonard wants to be on a good, competitive team that respects him which the Raptors have gone to great lengths to do. The Toronto Raptors are playing in the NBA Finals, so they are clearly a good, competitive team.
Is that it? Could it be that simple? Does he just want to play for a winner? Of course not! If that was the case, he could have stayed in San Antonio. It likely has more to do with the trust factor. With how the injury drama went down with the Spurs, there wasn’t a whole lot of trust between San Antonio and Leonard.
According to what Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, recently said to the media, the degradation of trust was a key factor in Leonard’s desire to leave San Antonio, via Yahoo! Sports:
“I think it just became a lack of trust. They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them…. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover, and we decided we had to move on.”
That is clearly not an issue with the Raptors. If anything, the opposite is true. When Leonard was clearly having some leg discomfort late in the series against the Bucks, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse simply reiterated just what Leonard told the media—that he was good.
Whether he was or wasn’t is irrelevant. It is telling that Leonard was willing to battle through whatever discomfort he was feeling to play. But it was also telling that Nurse was willing to defer to Leonard on what he was able—and willing – to do.
The relationship appears to be a pretty good one between Leonard and the franchise, and the team seems ready to contend for years to come. Why leave such a good situation to be on the same team as LeBron James or in the same city as him? Why join up with a team in one of the largest media markets in the world (New York City)? For a guy that doesn’t like a lot of media attention, it just doesn’t make sense.
He is not going anywhere. Toronto fans can count on Leonard putting on a Raptors jersey next season as well.