DeRozan "definitely" thinks Raptors would've still won a title if he wasn't traded

May 6 2023, 3:32 pm

For the rest of DeMar DeRozan’s NBA career, he’ll forever be linked to one big question: what if the Toronto Raptors never traded him?

In one of the most directly impactful trades in sports history, DeRozan was shipped (alongside Jakob Poeltl and a series of draft picks) to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the summer of 2018.

That same year, longtime Toronto coach Dwane Casey was fired, with Nick Nurse coming in as his replacement after having served as an assistant coach for five seasons.

DeRozan spent three seasons in San Antonio before eventually signing with the Chicago Bulls, while Poeltl spent four-and-a-half years there before eventually being traded back to Toronto at this past trade deadline.

The pair played in just seven postseason games together in San Antonio, with the franchise in the midst of a rebuild far off from their 2000s and early 2010s dynasty days.

Toronto, of course, won the 2019 NBA championship, with Leonard and Green both departing after one season with the Raptors in free agency to the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, respectively.

Joining ESPN host Stephen A. Smith on an alternative broadcast of last night’s Denver Nuggets—Phoenix Suns game, DeRozan was asked about if he thought Toronto could’ve still won the title in an alternate universe had they kept both him and Casey.

“Most definitely. Most definitely. It sucks that we couldn’t see what could have happened with me still being there… that just changes the whole dynamic and everything. But I definitely felt that,” DeRozan told Smith.

DeRozan played 675 games for the Raptors in his career across nine seasons in total, with the team’s furthest postseason run with him on the roster coming in 2016 with the franchise’s first-ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But it was the beginning of the end for DeRozan in Toronto, with that season marking the first of three years the team would fall in the postseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the franchise-altering trade eventually was undertaken.

“When it happened, it hit me hard,” DeRozan said about the trade in an appearance on Draymond Green’s Chips show in 2021. “You know, I mean like a lot of people always say like I was bitter, I was this… nah… like it f***ed me up because people don’t know how much I put into it, the conversations I had with players, coaches, the long nights, long days playing through all types of s***.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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