In just a few days, the possibility of the Raptors acquiring superstar Kawhi Leonard has turned from a far-fetched idea into a hot topic around the NBA. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, among the best of the best in terms of reporting, followed up his mention yesterday of the Raptors being in the driver’s seat for Kawhi Leonard with several interesting tidbits during a TSN appearance today. This also follows a piece from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski from earlier today, which zones in on the Raptors as a team that has talked to the Spurs.
Windhorst on the disappearance of several other Kawhi destinations that left Toronto in the “driver’s seat”:
“If you look at the moves that have happened out there, the Sixers have tied up some of their cap space, they’ve moved forward. The Lakers have moved forward and used all of their cap space. The teams that would be used as facilitators for these deals in the Bulls, the Nets, and the Hawks have all used their cap space. Really, especially because of those other teams aren’t willing to offer their prime prospects, in LA’s case Brandon Ingram, Boston’s case Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, because they aren’t putting those guys on the table, the Raptors have defaulted to the top of the pile because they have the ability to give San Antonio the best package.
On Masai’s ongoing negotiations, including the news that a compelling offer has been made:
“Masai Ujiri has been negotiating with the Spurs as he’s been over in Africa. Today he was at an event in Kenya with Barack Obama. The real issue here is the Spurs patience. Will they wait to see if a team like Boston will re-engage or will they make the best deal possible to move forward? And that’s the answer that nobody has right now, including the Raptors. But the Raptors have made an offer, it is a compelling offer, and they are seriously considering making a move to bring Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.“
On the risk level:
“There’s a lot of grey areas in the situation. One, what is Kawhi’s health like? They’re not going to get an opportunity to examine him before a trade. Two, what is Kawhi’s interest level in staying with Toronto long-term? Even if he wanted to, he would not even be able to sign an extension immediately upon arriving anywhere, including Toronto or anywhere else, so there be a certain level of risk here. The shape of the deal would be determined on what level of risk Toronto would be willing to take. That said, the Eastern Conference is open now that LeBron James has gone West. The Sixers haven’t been able to improve this summer and the Celtics are hoping players with major injuries in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are going to boost them, but it’s open and there is something to be said from for seizing the moment if you’re the Raptors and going and trying to get to the Finals and winning the East, and going and getting Kawhi Leonard would take you in that direction, and that level of risk that gamble is what’s on their plate right now.”