- Kawhi Leonard instantly improves Toronto’s chances to win the East
- Does DeMar DeRozan improve San Antonio’s chances in the West?
- LeBron James still short a complimentary star on Lakers
Another week, another update to our 2019 NBA Championship Odds.
There’s really no choice, after the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors consummated one of the biggest star-for-star trades in NBA history, as Kawhi Leonard was shipped North, with Danny Green, for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected first-round draft pick.
You may have heard from Kawhi’s camp that he only wanted to be traded to LA.
A lot of online chatter has been devoted to the alleged vengeance of Gregg Popovich, who many believe did everything in his power to do the complete opposite of that.
If that was his aim, he’s all-world at being vindictive. Pop did everything short of sending him to China.
Kawhi Leonard "I wanna go to LA"
Gregg Popovich "Did you say Toronto? It sounded like you said Toronto."
Kawhi Leonard “no I sai-"
Gregg Popovich “Hope you like the cold" pic.twitter.com/WNKJLE6Sqq
— William DuPont (@WilliamDuPontJ5) July 18, 2018
And of course, social media was ferocious. I have to admit the young Jaden Smith reaction was unreal. The internet, along with the Kardashian Curse and Father Time, remain undefeated.
Meanwhile, as Canadians are known to do, Raptors president and GM Masai Ujiri started off his presser apologizing to DeMar DeRozan for dealing him, while dejected Raptors fans lash out, trying to cope with the loss of the most accomplished player in franchise history.
What a joke. Raptors deal my fav player. The Heart and soul of the team. Guy wanted to be here too. Pathetic man. Raptors are dead to me now. We also gave up Poeltl and a 1st rd pick. I liked Poeltl too. Man we got screwed. Horrible trade.
— Adam (@Adamk_9) July 18, 2018
— Evan (@itsTOZZE) July 18, 2018
DeRozan used one emoji to express his feelings.
Apology not accepted? 😬 pic.twitter.com/IYmPh3gvUg
— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) July 20, 2018
On to the odds.
2019 NBA Championship Odds
|Golden State Warriors||1/1|
|Los Angeles Lakers||15/1|
|San Antonio Spurs||40/1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||50/1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||50/1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||70/1|
|Los Angeles Clippers||200/1|
|New York Knicks||200/1|
As it stands right now, San Antonio is the winner of this deal, but that could flip faster than a successful franchise adding Dwight Howard. The Spurs are integrating an All-NBA talent to a team that won 47 games and made the playoffs last year. They are not going to get worse.
DeRozan may not be as overly emotional as the mercurial Russell Westbrook, who harnessed his fury into one of the most remarkable NBA seasons in history (and an MVP trophy), but all indications are that he’s both hurt and angry. Mixing those factors into a well-known dedication to his craft, and DeRozan is going to go all Bart Scott on this season.
But does it move the needle in chasing a title? Well, almost no. But that’s not on DD. The Warriors and Rockets are the top tier, and LeBron on his own puts the Lakers there. The Spurs remain in that next tier of ‘if everything breaks right we got this!’ mode, alongside Utah and OKC.
Leonard, however, does increase the Dinos’ odds. While once considered an outside shot at taking the East as they were previously constructed last season, their potential for improvement is wild.
The key to all of this is Kawhi. If he is healthy (still a massive if) and taps into his inner beast, he too could unleash holy hell on the league.
And the things is, no matter how deep and talented Boston is, or how amazing the 76ers are poised to be, if Kawhi Leonard is engaged (there’s that if again), then he is the best player in the East, and save for Giannis – and his more undermanned Bucks – it’s really not close.
Sliding into the DeRozan spot, Leonard does almost everything better than his all-NBA counterpart.
Sliding into the DeRozan spot, Leonard does almost everything better than his All-NBA counterpart. There is no alpha controversy with Kyle Lowry. He’s one of the best defenders of his generation. He is an excellent three-point shooter. He can post up or run a devastating pick-and-roll.
Once you get over the hurt, Raptor fans, understand that you have a legitimate shot at winning the NBA Championship. Don’t worry about what you lost, hope that you can keep what you have. While the earlier reports were tough to read, at least this is encouraging. And hey, maybe those wild TO fans might just convince him to stick around.
Toronto is an AWESOME city.
If Paul George can stay in OKC, Kawhi Leonard can certainly stay in Toronto.
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) July 18, 2018
In actuality, these moves did a couple of things: they increased Golden State’s odds at winning their fourth ‘chip in five years, because no team really loaded up enough stars to cause concerns.
It also moved Boston into the penultimate position, as it appears James won’t have a star teammate to make the Lakers true contenders until next season.
The King and his championship aspirations take a mini-slide down the board.