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Spurs trade Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan

The Western Conference got a bit of a shakeup.

NBA: Orlando Magic at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing quite as crazy as the NBA offseason. And that is once again on full display, as a veritable mega-trade just took place. The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first round draft pick.

A Leonard trade has been in the works for a while, after he and the Spurs had an extreme falling out. Toronto, however, wasn’t a rumored trade destination until quite recently.

It’s a rare star-for-star swap. Leonard, when healthy and not feuding with his team, is one of the truly elite players in the league. He’s a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-Star, a Finals MVP, and has finished top-three in MVP voting twice.

DeRozan is not at Leonard’s level, but is still a very storied player. He’s a four-time All-Star, and has made the All-NBA team the last two years. You don’t see players of this caliber traded for each other very often.

Of course, it remains to be seen how it plays out. Leonard’s last year was a strange one - he started the season injured, then somewhat froze out the Spurs, who appeared to have no idea what was going on. He has stated that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, and, well . . . it doesn’t sound like he wants to play for anyone else.

There are, of course, implications for the Golden State Warriors. For at least one year, Leonard is out of the Western Conference. The Spurs were unlikely to challenge Golden State this year, but Popovich always makes things difficult, and Leonard is perhaps the only player in the world capable of playing good defense against Kevin Durant.

However, the trade does make it more likely that Leonard ends up on the Lakers alongside LeBron James in a year. The Raptors can offer Leonard a max contract of about $40 million more than the Lakers can; but it’s still about $40 million less than what the Spurs could have offered. So the financial hit to join Los Angeles in free agency is lessened now.

In other words, the Warriors could have an interesting rival in the making this time next year.

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