An interesting twist came on Thursday in the ongoing Kawhi Leonard trade saga. According to OddsShark, the Raptors are now tied with the Spurs as the favorites to have Leonard playing on their team next season.
Leonard, 27, is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-NBA selection and an NBA Finals MVP.
A variety of factors could be behind the shift.
The obvious pro of trading for a player like Kawhi Leonard is it instantly puts any team into contention.
Reports in the past week have hinted that the relationship between the Silver & Black and their star forward may be beyond fix, so a trade may be inevitable before next summer, when Leonard can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.
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Reports of Toronto as a possible trade partner with San Antonio began to surface earlier in the week. While the Sixers are chalk full of those assets, the chances of the team shipping Markelle Fultz to the Spurs are still very slim, as Robert Covington and Dario Saric still seem like the centerpieces of a deal. However, the team was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, prompting the firing of coach Dwane Casey, who was later named NBA Coach of the Year.
Guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been mentioned as players in a potential deal.
The Raptors, like other favorites Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia, have the young pieces to make an attractive trade package, and they also hold control of their first-round draft picks for the foreseeable future. Don't be surprised if you hear names like OG Anunoby, Malachi Richardson or Norman Powell thrown around if talks between the Spurs and Raptors heat up.
Toronto has been linked to Leonard in recent days, with Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post stating the Raptors have "generated buzz" in a potential trade. One thing is for certain and that's that the Raptors would continue to be a threat in the Eastern Conference, especially after the departure of LeBron James to the Western Conference.
Speaking of the Sixers, the general consensus is that if Leonard does not stay in the Western Conference, then they have the best shot to land him.