July 18, 2018

Kawhi to Toronto

Well, the Malcontented One (and Uncle Dennis) are now out of the hair of Gregg Popovich and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs.

It's a blockbuster. Kawhi Leonard PLUS Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and 2019 Toronto first-rounder.

Winner? Not immediately sure who wins long-term if Toronto pulls off the unexpected and resigns Kawhi, but even then, it's not a slam dunk.

Winner for one year short-term? Toronto, especially with LeBron gone from Cleveland.

Kawhi Leonard (top)
DeMar DeRozan 
Especially in the postseason, this gives them a better set of competitors.

Winner long-term if Toronto can't resign Kawhi?

Spurs, of course, but not necessarily hugely. DeRozan does have one more year on his contract — two years, plus a third year player option — left. But, he's only two-thirds of Kawhi's value on Win Shares and one-half, if that, on VORP. If Pops can get him to play better D, that ups his value. But, that remains to be seen if it can be done.

Green is a moderate loss to the Spurs. They'll have less three-point shooting, but, he might have left the team as well after next year.

Poeltl is not a stretch 4 and never will be. But, he's a good rim defender and an efficient scorer. That said, a two-bigs offense with him and LaMarcus Aldridge would likely congest the floor and won't get too many minutes. Still, he gets out from a logjam with Jonas Valanciunas and others.

The draft choice is fairly highly protected, on slots 1-20. It reverts to two seconds if it is in that slot. Also interesting that Pops didn't get — didn't want?? — Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby.

Red Satan has a timeline of the whole process, saying the quad issue may go back to late in the 2015-16 year. From that year to 2016-17, his last full year, his 3-ball percentage and rebounding go down, his free throws go up. Minutes per game unchanged. He had a career year on 3-balls in 2015-16, so maybe don't read too much in that. How big was his left shoulder injury? Unknown, since it was his left.

Did Tony Parker inflame Spurs-Leonard tensions with his "my injury was worse" comment? Possibly, but by then Uncle Dennis was running the Kawhi Show, and maybe this needed to be said. That said, in this San Antonio Express-News detailed breakout of the end, it's clear that Manu Ginobili was calling him out about as much.

Red Satan tackles this in a more detailed backgrounder. It spells out — no real shock if one was reading between the lines — that Kawhi and Uncle Dennis think Pops "used" TP et al, even at that players-only meeting?

Did he? Somewhat, at times, I'm sure. But, the players called their own players-only meeting. Even if Pops was already pushing the needle a bit, these are veteran players on a veteran team. From the Spurs' POV, ESPN says they wish that, if Kawhi and Uncle Dennis were that worried, they'd have decided to take the whole year off, and do so from the start. In that case, of course, the team could have asked for a medical exemption and gotten a replacement. They wouldn't have pushed Kawhi as much — either Pops or the players — with that. But, Leonard refused, when asked multiple times.

Is Pops blameless? No. That said, I think he carries no more than, oh, say, a 25 percent burden if you're going to try to put percentages on it. And, I think he would fess up to that much. At the same time, I doubt that Uncle Dennis would fess up to even 25 percent, let alone more.

Deadspin adds gas to the fire with this semi-serious, semi-snarky take. Perhaps Uncle Dennis, as well as Kawhi himself, held himself out of much of the year to protect his free agent value. Doubling down on Deadspin, maybe they decided to have Kawhi play a few games, then a few more, so that he didn't look TOO injured.

And, will Manu be back for one more year? I think so. And, with Green gone, his 3-balling will get used.

Overall predictions?

Toronto wins Atlantic Division and No. 1 seed in East — at least, if Kawhi plays either halfway happy or contract year energetic.

Spurs stay in playoffs in West, probably about 4-5 slot. Pops may not be done wheeling and dealing yet, etc.

ESPN disagrees greatly. In its latest NBA rankings, it puts San Antonio ninth in the West. Gotta disagree. Nuggets haven't improved that much. Neither has Utah. Nor the JailBlazers. Green will be missed, yes. Red Satan overrates Kyle Anderson. And, DeRozan, barring his own injury, will be playing for a full season, even if at a lower level than Peak Kawhi.

Give Toronto a B-plus overall on the trade and give the Spurs a B for getting as much as they did when no market materialized with other teams. But, if the Sixers offering was legit and firm, per Red Satan's analysis, give the Spurs no more than a B for not taking it, as I think it was a better offer.

Give Kawhi and Uncle Dennis a C-plus. Maybe a B for legit medical concerns but a D-plus/C-minus for how they handled this.

And, long term? Who knows who's speaking for Kawhi when he says he doesn't want to go to the Lakers to be second fiddle to LeBron? I suspect Uncle Dennis. I suspect that this may be taken into consideration next year by some GMs dealing with his free agency.

Speculation the Drakes will flip Kawhi to the Lakers? Unlikely. A healthy Kawhi gives them a shot at the NBA Finals. Whatever package the Lake Show would offer back does not.

Could Pops have gotten better? Probably not. Despite early speculation, it appears the Sixers offered only one player — Robert Covington — along with multiple draft choices. I like Covington, and think he's a better all-around player than DeRozan, but, I can agree with Pop's point of view that that felt more like a rebuilding trade. (Oh, and I Googled well enough for this info that whatever Red Satan has behind its insider paywall about other trade possibilities is now no longer of interest to me.)

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