Reevaluating if big swing trades by OKC Thunder and Raptors were worth the risk

Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder 2019 NBA Free Agency Tracker
Kawhi Leonard OKC Thunder 2019 NBA Free Agency Tracker (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Where the teams stand as their big swing risks exit for other teams:

Raptors win big but still lose Leonard:

In the Raptors case, the one-year rental will take less heat because of the championship. But the fact remains it did cost the team All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who wanted to be a lifer (a rarity in prior seasons in the 6ix) as well as a solid young big in Jakob Poeltl and their first-round pick this summer.

The addition of Marc Gasol at the deadline also pilfered young assets in Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas as well as sniper C.J. Miles plus their 2024 second-round pick. Again, it’s hard to argue Ujiri made all the right moves with it paying dividends, but the cost was high.

Ujiri maintains the team will attempt to repeat. Being handcuffed for six almost seven days at the start of Free Agency meant the best free agents were off the board by the time Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green‘s decisions were announced. Since then the Raptors GM has made some economical signings (Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and re-signed Patrick McCaw) and added some youthful prospects.

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Whether they have a shot to stay in the mix especially with the East’s elite retaining stars or improving (specifically the Nets) is debatable. Factor in the Bulls are much improved and the Pacers made smart additions.

Still, each of the East’s home court squads lost one of their core players. Milwaukee kept Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and George Hill but lost Malcolm Brogdon who in my humble opinion was the player most important to re-sign. The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving but gained perhaps a better fit in Kemba Walker but the losses of Al Horford and even Aron Baynes will sting.

The 76ers retained Tobias Harris, lost their fourth quarter man Jimmy Butler as well as J.J. Redick but gained Josh Richardson (great pick up). As mentioned the Pacers made smart moves adding Brogdon as well as Jeremy Lamb who everyone seems to forget was the second leading scorer behind Walker. They lost a bevy of assets though as Bojan Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph, Wesley Matthews, Thaddeus Young, and Kyle O’Quinn all exited in free agency plus Tyreke Evans (drug suspension) and Darren Collison (retirement).

Factor in the Brooklyn Nets massive improvements and the Chicago Bulls looking poised to take a step and it speaks to why many pundits are saying the Raptors won’t be a homecourt seed.

The jury will remain out at least until the trade deadline when early success could result in Ujiri taking another swing to add talent or conversely ship out one of Lowry ($33M), Gasol ($25.95M) or Ibaka ($23M) or a combo of them as they are all on expiring deals.