The Toronto Raptors are taking a chance by acquiring Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs as he enters his walk year, but now that he has had some time to process the trade, he is reportedly approaching the move with a positive outlook.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported in the immediate aftermath of the trade that Leonard had "no interest" in playing for Toronto. However, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t theScore's Chris Walder) revealed later on Wednesday that the former All-Star is starting to "warm to the idea" of wearing a Raptors uniform.
In Deveney's report, it was mentioned that the disgruntled star could sit out the 2018-19 season as he prepares for free agency next summer. After all, it's no secret, as Wojnarowki has noted in the past, that Leonard wants to play in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Neither the Lakers nor the Clippers presented the Spurs with an offer that was too good to refuse, and as a result, Leonard did not get his wish. Now, he will be playing his home games in a different country—for one year, at least.
Toronto is taking a major risk by essentially swapping DeMar DeRozan—who had two years of team control remaining—for potentially just one year of Leonard and Danny Green. DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had led the franchise to five straight postseason appearances and a franchise-record 59 wins last season. The organization is all-in on next season after the trade.
With Leonard and Green set to be free agents next summer, a rebuild could be in Toronto's plans sooner than had been expected at the start of this offseason.
Of course, the Raptors could be hoping that they are able to duplicate the Oklahoma City Thunder's success in convincing Paul George to sign a long-term deal after acquiring him with just one year remaining on his contract. Like Leonard, George was expected to head to Los Angeles as a free agent. Instead, he agreed to a four-year deal with OKC at the start of free agency.
Toronto will be able to offer Leonard a five-year, $190 million contract next offseason, while opposing teams can only offer four years and $141 million. Then again, money may not be his top priority, as he was in line for a supermax deal worth more than $200 million had he remained in San Antonio.
Neither Leonard nor DeRozan were initially happy when news of the trade first broke. Fortunately for the Raptors, their newest star now appears to be willing to give his new city a chance. It will be up to the franchise to convince him over the coming months to stay in Toronto long-term.