Report: Raptors in driver’s seat for Kawhi Leonard

The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs are reportedly finalizing a deal for Kawhi Leonard. (Eric Gay/AP)

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

That’s what Toronto Raptors fans must think after ESPN’s Brian Windhorst stated his belief that Kawhi Leonard to Toronto is the most likely trade scenario.

Making an appearance on ESPN’s Lowe Post podcast, Windhorst told Zach Lowe that the Raptors have moved up the pecking order by virtue of the Lakers and Sixers having given up.

“Toronto Raptors … I think they’re in the driver’s seat for Kawhi because I think the Lakers have given up, the Sixers have given up, and with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade.”

If you thought the Raptors had no shot at Leonard and that the earlier reports of the San Antonio Spurs superstar possibly being traded to Canada’s only team were just reporters blowing smoke, ESPN’s Zach Lowe would like to have a word with you.

“I’ve seen a lot of snark on Twitter that the Raptors stuff is a joke, that the odds went up because of something I said on my podcast and you said on TV,” Lowe said. “I’ve seen it being dismissed. It may not happen, most NBA trades don’t happen, but if you think it’s a joke, you should probably recalibrate your expectations.”

After Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post reported that Toronto had “generated buzz” for the former Finals MVP and Windhorst also confirmed on TV that the Raptors are in play, betting site OddsShark placed the Raptors at even odds to land Leonard.

There are a couple of things to note, of significance, going forward. On July 16, Leonard officially became eligible to earn the super-max since the date marks the three-year anniversary of the contract he signed in 2015. This means the Spurs can offer him a five-year, $221-million extension going forward.

Leonard could be eligible to sign a five-year, $190-million deal or a four-year contract worth $141 million with a new team if he decides to go to free agency in 2019. A new team that acquired him via trade would be ineligible to offer him a super-max deal, even if he made the All-NBA team.

For the Raptors, the trade exception acquired when they traded DeMarre Carroll to the Brooklyn Nets has already expired, while the trade exception from their Cory Joseph trade to the Indiana Pacers expires on Monday.

Now, where’s that trade machine?

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