Kawhi Leonard Trade Rumors: Raptors Generating Buzz as Potential Destination

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2018

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 3: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Toronto Raptors on January 3, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have reportedly "generated buzz" as a potential destination for San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

Per that report, "With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, perhaps Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is willing to swing for the fences and move DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry in such a deal."

Bontemps added that the Philadelphia 76ers "have consistently remained atop the list of teams expected to land Leonard," though "such a deal will likely hinge on whether Philadelphia makes Markelle Fultz available."

As for the Raptors, landing Leonard—even at the expense of losing a star like Lowry or DeRozan—would be a fascinating gamble in the post-LeBron Eastern Conference. Ideally, the Raptors may prefer to add Leonard without giving up either player, but it's hard to imagine the Spurs being enticed by the team's other assets, especially if either the Sixers or Lakers are willing to part with young players.

As they stand, the Raptors are still arguably one of the top three teams in the East, alongside the Boston Celtics and Sixers. Toronto was the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, though James tormented them once again, sweeping them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was the team's 10th straight loss against James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason and the third season in a row the Raptors were eliminated by the Cavs.

With or without Leonard, it's unlikely the Cavaliers will torment the Raptors in the postseason next year. The question now, however, will be whether Toronto has peaked and will be surpassed by younger, up-and-coming teams like Boston and Philly.

A trio of Lowry, DeRozan and Leonard would be formidable, though there may be fit concerns between DeRozan and Leonard, who both generally operate with fairly high usage rates. DeRozan's usage rate of 29.2 percent was 26th in the NBA last season, per NBA.com. In the 2016-17 campaign, Leonard was 11th in usage (31.2 percent), while DeRozan was sixth (34.2).

There would be an adjustment period for that pairing, no doubt. But if Toronto suspects its current core has plateaued, it may be a gamble the team is willing to take, even as a one-year rental.