Masai Ujiri admits Kawhi Leonard's injury saga helped the Raptors to acquire him

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four

The Toronto Raptors have always struggled to attract top-level free agents to join them so when the opportunity to trade for Kawhi Leonard arose, they simply couldn't pass it up. 

President Masai Ujiri took some criticism for making the decision to offload DeMar DeRozan - who had three years remaining on his deal - in exchange for a player who has just a year left on his.

Immediately after the trade, ESPN's Chris Haynes reported that Leonard has no intention of staying in Toronto beyond next season. 

The two-time All-Star has a desire to return to his hometown of Los Angeles and this could essentially turn out to be just a rental for the Raptors. 

But Ujiri stands by his decision and was happy to accept the risk involved with it. 

Window of opportunity

If they'd approached him as a free agent next summer, the chances of Toronto getting a meeting with the 26-year-old would've been slim. 

The quad injury that kept him out for much of last season deterred many teams from trading for him but it created a golden opportunity for the Raps. 

It's not every day that the Canadian outfit can capture one of the best players in the league. 

San Antonio Spurs v Detroit Pistons

As one of the small market teams in the league and especially playing in a different country altogether, they're not typically viewed as a first choice option for NBA players 

Ujiri pointed to Kawhi's injury as the key reason why they were able to acquire his services. 

“Without the medical drama, you have no chance to talk to a player like this. He would still be in San Antonio,” Ujiri said per Jeff McDonald of the Express News.

Despite coming off their best season in franchise history, he felt they still had to roll the dice and make a big change after failing in the playoffs again. 

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Three

The Raptors still don't know what Leonard's health is like as they're yet to conduct a medical with him but they were prepared to take a gamble nonetheless.

The Oklahoma City Thunder set a precedent as their decision to take Paul George for a year paid off when they convinced him to re-sign to a long-term deal this summer. 

Toronto is hoping to have that same success with their new superstar as his arrival could take them over the hump and potentially into the NBA Finals next season. 

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