The Toronto Raptors made an eyebrow-raising trade over the summer, one that sent beloved guard DeMar DeRozan, promising young big man Jakob Poeltl, and a pick to San Antonio for superstar forward Kawhi Leonard and sharpshooting wing Danny Green. Flipping, primarily, DeRozan for Leonard was a tough pill to swallow, but it sent a message that the Raptors were willing to part with a star on a long-term deal for a superstar on an expiring contract, believing that they could convince Leonard to stick around and turn Toronto into a consistent contender.
Despite the weirdness that was his spotty availability this year as the Raptors managed the quad injury that held him out for most of 2017-18, Leonard and Toronto were excellent during the regular season. But Leonard wasn’t acquired for the regular season — he was acquired to be the kind of destroyer of worlds that had the Raptors go from a punchline every postseason to a team that could win a championship.
Who knows if they can get there, but it is undeniable that Toronto traded for the Leonard who showed up in Game 2 of their opening round series against the Orlando Magic. After a stunning defeat in Game 1, Leonard (who, to his credit, went for 25 points and six rebounds in the loss) played like an MVP-caliber performer on Tuesday night. He was magnificent, scoring 37 points on a hyper-efficient 15-for-22 shooting during a 111-82 win, the largest margin of victory in the postseason in franchise history.