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Toronto Raptors

How has the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade worked out for the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs?

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Kawhi Leonard vs. DeMar DeRozan (NBA Getty Images)

Five months ago, the Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Today, the two teams meet for the first time since the trade.

Before they do, let's take a closer look at how the deal has worked out for both sides as we near the midpoint of the NBA season.

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

The Raptors took a risk in trading DeRozan, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, for Leonard after a quadriceps injury limited him to only nine games with the Spurs last season, but you wouldn't know it based on how the two-time All-Star has been playing so far this season.

While he has sat out a number of games for precautionary reasons, Leonard looks like an MVP candidate again with averages of 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. The points and rebounds are the best marks of his career and he's only dished out more assists once.

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"That is such an anomaly," Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told Bleacher Report when asked about Leonard's play recently. "I don't think the average fan knows how difficult that is to miss that much time and then step in and be every bit of who you were before - if not more."

The one part of Leonard's game that has regressed slightly compared to his most productive years with the Spurs is his 3-point shooting. Between 2015 and 2017, Leonard made 1.9 3-pointers per game at a 40.7 percent clip. This season, he's making 1.7 3-pointers per game at a 36.1 percent clip.

The encouraging sign for the Raptors is he's been much better as the season has progressed, going from connecting on 12.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in preseason to 28.9 percent in the month of November and 39.1 percent in the month of December.

Leonard's ability to create his own offence and play off of his teammates has the Raptors scoring at a rate of 114.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the court as opposed to 105.4 with him on the bench. He's already had a number of signature performances in the first half of the season, such as when he led the Raptors to an overtime victory over Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors with 37 points.

More recently, Leonard scored a career-high 45 points against the Utah Jazz to open the new year.

All in all, Leonard is averaging more points, rebounds, steals and blocks than DeRozan did in his final season with the Raptors, doing so with greater efficiency and basically the same usage. The only thing DeRozan did more frequently was set up his teammates for scoring opportunities - he averaged nearly double the amount of assists last season than Leonard is averaging this season.

That, however, has been less of an issue with Lowry dishing out a career-best 9.8 assists per game and Pascal Siakam developing into a potential All-Star. Leonard also more than makes up for it with his play on the other end of the court.

The Raptors actually have a worse defensive rating with Leonard in the lineup, but he brings a level of versatility that Toronto never came close to having with DeRozan. It shows in matchups with teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, as Leonard has the size and length to guard multiple positions.

The other player the Raptors acquired in the deal was Green. The veteran has started at shooting guard in all 38 games he's appeared in with the Raptors and he's fit in perfectly. Not only is he back to being one of the best 3-point shooters in the league following three subpar seasons, Green is playing the sort of defence that helped him make the All-Defensive Second Team in 2016-17.

Green doesn't carry nearly the same load as Leonard and Lowry, but he's been almost just as important as them to the team's early season success. According to NBA.com, he currently has the second-highest offensive rating (116.7) in the league and one of the best defensive ratings (101.6).

With the Raptors outscoring opponents by a margin of 15.1 points per 100 possessions in Green's minutes on the court, he has the highest net rating in the league.

Green has even come up big in the clutch for the Raptors in making a couple of game-winners, one against the Orlando Magic, the other against the Miami Heat.

Not bad for someone who was seen as a throw-in at the time.

DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl

When San Antonio's starting point guard Dejounte Murray went down with a torn ACL in preseason - an injury that is expected to sideline him for the entire regular season - DeRozan was tasked with taking full control of the Spurs' offence.

How has DeRozan responded? By averaging a career-high 6.3 assists per game. The Spurs are scoring 15.3 points per game off of those assists, putting DeRozan on the same page as the likes of Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving and Devin Booker.

DeRozan made strides as a playmaker last season. He's just kicked it into another gear this season. He dished out 10-plus assists only three times in his time with the Raptors and he already has two such games with the Spurs, the first of which came against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in an overtime win in the first week of the season.

"He's turned out to be maybe the best passer on our team, frankly," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said of DeRozan earlier in the season.

DeRozan is still scoring the ball at a high rate, too. His 22.9 points per game is down slightly from the last couple of seasons and he's back to rarely shooting 3-pointers again, but he's getting to the basket at one of the higher rates of his career while trailing only Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in makes from midrange.

DeRozan is also averaging a career-high 5.9 rebounds per game, up from 3.9 last season. He still has not recorded a triple-double in his career, but he's come close to reaching the mark on a handful of occasions this season alone.

The combination of his volume scoring, passing and rebounding had DeRozan looking like an MVP candidate to start the season. Even though he hasn't been able to maintain that hot start, he has helped the Spurs win seven of their last 10 games, putting them back in the Western Conference playoff race following an inconsistent month of November that saw them go 5-10.

Whether or not it's enough for DeRozan to be an All-Star in the loaded Western Conference remains to be seen, but he's having one of the best seasons of his career.

Poeltl's season has trended in a different direction. Whereas he came out of the gates slow in October, he almost doubled his playing time in December and made the most of his extended minutes with averages of 7.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 blocks per game.

After setting a new career-high with 20 points against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 4, Poeltl admitted that it's taken him some time to adjust to his new surroundings in San Antonio.

"I think playing with a new team, playing with new teammates in a different system is definitely weird at first," Poeltl told reporters last month.

"I have to get used to my new teammates, how to play with them, how they like to play, what can I change to my game to adapt to that," he continued.

Poeltl was a part of something special in Toronto last season. Unlike many teams, the Raptors gave consistent minutes to an all-bench unit made up of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Pascal Siakam and Poeltl, and it was one of the more effective lineups in the NBA.

With a less defined role to start the season, it's no surprise that he's only now starting to find his footing.

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

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