The acquisition of disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard in a blockbuster trade with the San Antonio Spurs has paid immediate dividends for the Toronto Raptors on the NBA championship odds, as they have vaulted to +2650 on those futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The rumoured deal between the teams became a reality early Wednesday, with the Raptors shipping DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick to the Spurs in return for the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and veteran Danny Green.
With the move, Masai Ujiri has changed the face of a Raptors team that has been a big-time performer in the regular season in recent years, but failed to meet postseason expectations. Toronto finished second in the NBA with 59 regular-season wins last season, but was swept in the second round of the NBA playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second straight year.
The Raptors’ abrupt playoff exit ultimately cost Dwane Casey his head coaching job, and left the squad at a distant +6600 on the opening odds to win the 2019 NBA championship.
The arrival of Leonard in Toronto, however, is not without its risks. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP played just nine games with the Spurs this past season while battling an array of injuries, and has reportedly expressed a lack of interest in joining the Raptors. However, the 27-year-old could prove to be a transformative force with the Raptors, who struggled defensively during the postseason, particularly in a pair of lopsided playoff losses to the Cavaliers.
While the Raptors have made a rapid climb on the odds to win the NBA championship, the Spurs have faltered following the news of Wednesday’s deal, plummeting to +12500. With Leonard on the shelf, the Spurs took a step back last season, finishing seventh in the Western standings and failing to win 50 games during a full campaign for the first time since 1997.
The Spurs opened on the 2019 NBA championship odds at a solid +3000, but bold free agent moves by Western rivals, including the Los Angeles Lakers’ signing of LeBron James, along with the departure of veteran leader Tony Parker for Charlotte via free agency, have taken their toll on the squad.
However, San Antonio is adding a four-time all-star in DeRozan, who joins an offence led by forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged 23.1 points per game last season.
Further up the NBA championship odds, the Golden State Warriors sit as -168 favourites, ahead of the Boston Celtics at +670, the Lakers at +825, and the Houston Rockets at +925, while the Philadelphia 76ers round out the top of the futures at +1600.