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
Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka of Toronto Raptors pose after winning NBA Championship while OKC Thunder big risk to add Paul George didn’t pay dividends as hoped (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Devil’s advocate:

Raptors title run made the risk worthwhile:

I’d argue these big swings were still worth the risk. Toronto did everything right to retain Leonard. Upon joining the Raptors, Kawhi’s listed priorities were health and winning. A year of shade and jokes followed due to “load management” but it’s safe to say no one is laughing now about the 22 games Toronto sat Leonard (some for actual injury). And although Leonard was the key it’s hard to deny their depth and the other moves Ujiri made were equally important to the Raptors winning the championship.

Granted, both Leonard and Danny Green exited. But, it’s not because Leonard wasn’t happy in Toronto or because the franchise failed to meet his expectations. For all intents and purposes, Kawhi got V.I.P. treatment, enjoyed his teammates and had strong relationships with both Ujiri and Head Coach Nick Nurse.

Nor is the market or even the rumors of Leonard being averse to the cold why the superstar left. Of all the superstars Leonard is the last one lured to a big market for the attention, in fact, if you paid attention during the seemingly never-ending free agency “Kawhi watch”, media attention isn’t just something he abhors he’s the most adept at ignoring it and deftly staying away from it.

Rather, Leonard’s decision (which has been confirmed by Nurse, Ujiri and Raptors teammates all came down to him wanting to play at home in LA and be close to his family. In a sport where so many stars have huge followings, large groups of friends both in the league and external to it and are constantly in the media, Leonard’s inner circle almost entirely consists of his immediate family and his agent.

Still, the Raptors are left one year later having lost five contributing assets, one first and one second round pick. Both Leonard and Green are gone and only Marc Gasol remains.