Raptors president Masai Ujiri, GM Bobby Webster reveal reason why they traded for Kawhi Leonard
After the Toronto Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks to advance to their first NBA Finals berth on Saturday night, TNT’s Ernie Johnson asked team president Masai Ujiri about the trade that brought superstar forward Kawhi Leonard to “The Six.”
Ujiri iterated that it was an obvious choice, because Leonard was the “best player in the league,” and that he had proven his quality throughout the playoffs.
Michael Lee of The Athletic wrote about the decision to trade for Leonard, and how Ujiri and Raptors general manager Bobby Webster’s gamble to acquire Leonard has been validated:
Kawhi Leonard wanted to know one thing. Two days after the San Antonio Spurs met his trade demand last July, following a bizarre, season-long stalemate with the organization and its training staff, Leonard showed up at the Toronto Raptors’ practice facility, scraggly beard and all, and got directly to the point with team president Masai Ujiri:
Why did you trade for me?
“Because you’re the best player in the league,” Ujiri told him in that initial meeting.
Bobby Webster’s response:
“We’re trying to win at the highest level. So, we thought he’d give us the best chance of doing this,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told The Athletic. “And obviously, it’s something to different to say now in May than we did the deal in July but honestly, this was the plan. It doesn’t always happen according to it. We wanted a champion…everyone has seen before their eyes in this playoffs.”
The trade–which sent beloved Raptors star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs–was initially ridiculed. But with Leonard having one of the best postseasons in league history while guiding the Raptors to the NBA Finals, the enmities seem to have been forgotten.