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Toronto Raptors

Heat Check: How will you remember the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade?

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DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard (NBA Getty Images)

It's been one year since the most famous Woj Bomb in Toronto Raptors history.

DeMar DeRozan, who had been Mr. "Toronto Raptor" to that point, was shipped out in exchange for disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard.

There are many opinions on how the trade should be remembered, so we asked our NBA.com experts what they'll remember most.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I think for me it goes down as one of the greatest trades in NBA history. We already know it's the greatest trade in Raptors history. I don't think there's an argument to be made against that. Yes, Kawhi left after just one season, but he didn't just leave after any old season - he left after a championship season.

The Raptors have always been on the wrong end of transactions historically. Losing Mighty Mouse Damon Stoudamire, trading away Marcus Camby, losing Tracy McGrady, trading Vince Carter, losing Chris Bosh - it was always Toronto on the wrong end of the stick. It was always the Raptors giving away or losing the better player in the deal.

This time, the Raptors were getting back a top-five player in the league. And even though there were questions around his health, no one could deny his talent. Add in the fact that Danny Green, a veteran starter who also had championship experience, was included in the deal, and it still feels like a steal even though neither are on the roster.

Had the Raptors not won the championship this season, my answer would be different, but they won. If I was the Raptors GM, I'd do the trade a million times over.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'll never forget how genuinely shocked I was for weeks after the news surfaced.

When I had first learned of rumblings that the Raptors were in talks to try to acquire Kawhi, it seemed like an unsubstantiated rumour that would never amount to anything. On the morning of July 18, I remember waking up to a number of notifications announcing that the overnight trade between San Antonio and Toronto had been worked through and agreed upon, and I couldn't believe it.

Honestly, it didn't even seem real.

After the saga surrounding Leonard's final season in San Antonio, I couldn't imagine seeing him in a Spurs uniform anymore, but I couldn't picture him in the Raptors uniform, either. Weeks passed and a grainy photo surfaced of him at the Raptors practice facility, but I anxiously awaited his official introduction at media day to fully wrap my head around him as a Raptor.

That still felt surreal.

For me, the surreality surrounding the circumstances of Leonard's acquisition only added to the mystique of his lone season with Toronto. That it ended with Kawhi putting forth a historic postseason to lead the franchise to its first-ever NBA title was fitting given how everything came together. It was like a dream.

While Kawhi's decision to leave via free agency could be likened to waking up from said dream, the Larry O'Brien trophy and championship banner will serve as reminders that it was all very much real.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I remember seeing the terms of the deal and being blown away that the Raptors got Leonard and Green without having to part ways with OG Anunoby and/or Pascal Siakam.

It's easy to forget that there were some serious concerns about Leonard's health coming into the season, but the Raptors were the clear winners of the trade at the time. After putting together the best season of his career and leading the Raptors to their first title in franchise history, it's turned into one of the best trades - if not the best trade - in NBA history.

Just imagine where the Raptors would be right now had they traded one or both of Anunoby and Siakam. Anunoby didn't log a single minute in the playoffs, but he's perhaps the best long-term prospect on the team when you account for his age and how much he has left to improve. Siakam, meanwhile, was Toronto's second-best player on its championship run and is now set to take over as the No. 1 option.

The loss of Siakam would've hurt more than Anunoby, but they are both are a huge part of the team's future. Even with Leonard no longer on the team, the Raptors should still be competitive next season. The Raptors might even be able to build another contender in the future if Siakam and Anunoby reach their ceilings.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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