Toronto Raptors

Report: Raptors generating 'buzz' around NBA as potential destination for Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard (Getty Images)

If the Spurs make Kawhi Leonard available in trade talks this offseason, the 76ers might not be the only Eastern Conference team in the running to acquire him. According to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post, the Raptors have "generated buzz" around the league as a potential destination for the two-time All-Star in return for one of their own All-Stars.

The Toronto Raptors also generated buzz as a potential destination for Leonard. With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, perhaps Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is willing to swing for the fences and move DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry in such a deal.

Leonard is one of the most dominant players in the NBA when healthy. Injuries limited him to nine games in 2017-18, but he's only a season removed from averaging 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, numbers that helped him finish behind only Russell Westbrook and James Harden in MVP voting.

Leonard is also a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, making him the rare All-Star who can score in volume and shut down the opposing team's No. 1 option on the other end of the floor. He can guard just about anyone in the league when he's at full strength, from speedy point guards like Stephen Curry to crafty playmakers like Harden.

Having someone as well-rounded and accomplished as Leonard would help the Raptors the most in the playoffs. They have struggled to replicate their regular-season success in the Lowry and DeRozan era, falling to the LeBron-led Cavaliers in three consecutive postseason series.

Leonard would give them a versatile scorer who can create his own shot and play off one of Lowry and DeRozan, all while setting the tone on defense with his two-way play. His ball-hawking defense would become especially important against the likes of the Celtics and 76ers in the playoffs, teams that have talented scorers in Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons.

Season Raptors Regular Season Offensive Rating Raptors Regular Season Defensive Rating Raptors Postseason Offensive Rating Raptors Postseason Offensive Rating
2012-13 102.9 104.7 - -
2013-14 105.8 102.4 104.5 108.3
2014-15 108.1 104.8 95.4 112.5
2015-16 107.0 102.7 99.0 105.6
2016-17 109.8 104.9 101.3 107.9
2017-18 111.0 103.4 110.1 112.5

The risk in trading for Leonard is there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding his injury. Without knowing if he can return to his MVP form, would a team like the Raptors be willing to part ways with someone who has helped them become the Eastern Conference powerhouse they are today?

It might just be worth it to Ujiri now that James has landed in the Western Conference, as Bontemps notes.

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