The Toronto Raptors’ level of interest — and chances of landing — Kawhi Leonard became slightly less ambiguous after ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst told Sportscentre’s Kara Waglund that the team has made a compelling offer for the two-time All-Star.
Earlier this week, Windhorst reported that both the LA Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have pulled back slightly on their pursuit of the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the year, leaving the Raptors “in the driver’s seat” to land the small forward. It was an excruciatingly dubious claim for Raptors fans to digest over the past 24 hours or so, but it was all clarified (somewhat) by the NBA insider on Tuesday.
“It’s way more likely now than it was a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve looked 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 — the Bulls, the Nets, and the Hawks — have all used their cap space,” Windhorst said, adding that since most teams are unwilling to part with their prime young players, the Raptors have “defaulted” to the top of list.
With that in mind, Toronto has the ability to offer the Spurs the best package, according to Windhorst, and the main issue is San Antonio’s patience. Will they wait for a team like Boston or Philly or the Lakers to change their mind and decide to re-kindle the trade talks with San Antonio once the season in underway, and can the Raps compete for Kawhi if those potential suitors put their respective hats back in the ring?
All questions that Masai Ujiri will have to weigh and figure out over the coming weeks.
The Raptors president will also have to draw a line at a certain point in regards to the price tag the Spurs are asking for. Some type of combination of DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakim, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka and a first-round pick has been bandied about in recent weeks.
Leonard played only nine games due to injury last season, but has averaged 16.3 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc. The 2014 Finals MVP is also a two-time All-NBA selection and has been selected to the All-Defensive in four of his six full seasons.