One Trade The Raptors Can Make To Actually Beat LeBron James Next Year

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

A new coach could help.

But it’s not what’s gonna get the Raptors past LeBron James in future playoffs.

What can accomplish that: a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who claimed NBA Finals MVP honors while defending LeBron.

A Raptors trade for Kawhi Leonard is actually plausible

It’s looking more and more like the Spurs will be forced to decide between trading prized forward Kawhi Leonard and letting him hit free agency a year from now.

But, unfortunately for San Antonio, that one-year timeline would scare many potential trade partners off and limit Kawhi’s value.

Fortunately for the Raptors, who’ve been eliminated by LeBron’s Cavs in each of the last three seasons, winning a grand total of two games in those series, they have little to lose and trade assets to spare.

Toronto’s deep, diverse roster would allow San Antonio to go in a number of different directions with their haul.

The Spurs could demand one of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry; a future first-rounder (the Raptors don’t have theirs in 2018); and one or some combination of Toronto’s valuable young players like Norman Powell (who would likely have to be included in any of these trades to make salaries match), Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Delon Wright (considering the whole point of this is to get past LeBron, San Antonio’s insisting on OG Anunoby could be a deal-breaker, as the rookie fared pretty well defensively against the four-time MVP). In this scenario, the Spurs would also benefit from dumping the unsightly contract of Pau Gasol onto Toronto.

The other route: San Antonio goes young, demanding three or even all four of those aforementioned youngsters as well a first-rounder, maybe even two, in exchange for Kawhi on his own. C.J. Miles would probably have to go to San Antonio too to make the money work.

Because Kawhi can opt out after 2018-19, both scenarios would be major risks for Toronto. But both offer decent consolations: in the first, major cap space in 2019; in the second, the ability to hold onto their biggest present-day stars.

It’s a mighty swing, but Toronto isn’t getting past LeBron — no matter where he plays next season — without one.