Updated 2019 NBA Title Odds: Kawhi Trade Moves Raptors to 20-1

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard

  • The Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
  • Westgate updated their odds Wednesday morning, moving the Raptors from 60-1 to 20-1 to win the 2019 title.

Kawhi Leonard’s San Antonio career is officially over. Early Wednesday morning, the Toronto Raptors traded All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick for Leonard and Danny Green. It’s incredibly rare for a superstar MVP candidate to be traded during his prime, and sportsbooks have already lowered futures for the Raptors. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook immediately moved them from 60-1 to 20-1 to win the 2019 title.

Here are the teams whose odds moved this morning after the news:

On the surface, this is an outright coup by the Raptors. It had been rumored they were possibly going to move on from DeRozan and his contract even earlier this summer after disappointing in the playoffs again, and a healthy, motivated Kawhi is clearly better than DeRozan.

Kawhi is perhaps the best defensive player in the league when healthy, whereas DeRozan is below-average. With his proficiency shooting the ball from everywhere, Kawhi is a ready-made fit for the modern game while DeRozan still subsists on mid-rangers. Equating this as a trade of an All-Star for an All-Star is a bit silly: It may sound harsh, but DeRozan is likely closer in value to the wing the Spurs just lost, Kyle Anderson, than to a healthy, motivated Kawhi.

Of course, this deal isn’t without risk for Toronto. Kawhi can walk in free agency next year, and it seems that’s even likely at this point, per ESPN NBA reporter Chris Haynes:

A lot remains to be seen about how this works out in Toronto, but considering the tough market, it’s hard to fault the Raptors for swinging for the fences. Titles aren’t won without risky, franchise-altering moves at some point.

This also changes the landscape of the league, too, of course. If Kawhi plays a full season, the Raptors will certainly compete with the Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. (Westgate shortened the Raptors’ odds to win the East from 7-1 to 4-1.)

A guard/wing trio of Kyle Lowry-Danny Green-Kawhi Leonard is an intriguing matchup against Boston and Philly’s players. Things are a bit easier now out West, as San Antonio could disappoint. In fact, the sharp play with DeRozan likely being overvalued by the public is to hammer early the under on the Spurs’ win total when that is released.

As for the Warriors and Lakers, not much has realistically changed. Sure, a Lakers squad with Kawhi and LeBron James could have competed for a title, but it would have been at the expense of valuable young assets. Now LA can sign him in free agency next year without giving up anything. The Warriors lose a competitor in the West but gain one in the East, although that’s less harmful given the playoff structure. The rich get richer: Of the realistic trade scenarios for Kawhi, this one likely hurts the Warriors the least.

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