The San Antonio Spurs were never going to come out ahead on the Kawhi Leonard trade.
For starters, it's next to impossible to even construct equal value for someone who, when healthy, is at least in the NBA's top five players. This particular situation was further complicated by Leonard's bizarre yearbefore the deal, his clear desire to get out and his looming 2019 free agency.
Even still, this was Kawhi Leonard—Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time top-three finisher in MVP voting. The Spurs could get 75 percent of his value and still potentially transform their team.
If San Antonio wanted to start over and build around Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV, it could have fetched a premium rebuilding package of young prospects and draft considerations. But 69-year-old program patriarch Gregg Popovich had other ideas.
The Spurs swapped Leonard, Danny Green and cash for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a top-20-protected pick. Popovich clearly coveted competitiveness and felt there wasn't a better needle-mover in the price range than DeRozan.
"With DeMar coming to San Antonio, I couldn't be happier," Popovich told reporters following the deal. "DeMar is a four-time All-Star, an All-NBA player, great in the community there, team player, somebody I have respected and watched play for a while now, and we are thrilled to have him here."
Under the circumstances, DeRozan might have been the most talented player the Spurs could hope to find. But that doesn't make the exchange an automatic victory for the Alamo City.
The only way that happens is if DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge prove capable of carrying this club deep into the postseason. They're struggling to inspire confidence in that department, and it's debatable if they ever should have.
At their respective peaks, DeRozan and Aldridge are (or were) stars—not stars and definitely not superstars. That sounds like more of a slight than it's intended. Both were top-20(ish) talents, with Aldridge averaging 23.3 points and 10.7 rebounds over a two-season stretch from 2013-15 and DeRozan pouring in 27.3 points per night during the 2016-17 campaign.