With a trade for Memphis Grizzlies legend Marc Gasol, it seems the Toronto Raptors are really going all in for the NBA title this campaign.
They’ve made a splash by signing the leader of the ‘grit and grind era’. The Spanish center hasn’t been at his best this term but has shown glimpses of what he could do on this Raptors side – giving them the best quality minutes from a big man in recent years.
But is his shot going to go in consistently, is he still the same defensive player, and will he be as impactful on the glass?
Kyle Lowry is key to any success the Canadian franchise hopes to have with Gasol, with the franchise stalwart having a terrific passing season. If Gasol finds his shot again in Toronto, both pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops could be a potent playing style.
While Toronto’s offensive is effective, the refinement of adding Gasol, combined with Kawhi Leonard and Lowry, could take the whole project to a next level.
— Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) February 10, 2019
Unlikely to be as seamless as the integration between Lowry and Gasol, Leonard and the Spaniard’s fit could go through some growing pains. Leonard isn’t a natural playmaker, but commands so much attention from the opposition’s defence, that Gasol may find himself open and primed to take advantage.
Leonard coming off Gasol screens on certain sets and the latter can provide spacing for Kawhi on iso plays, could be an intriguing watch.
Another huge part of Gasol’s game is his potent playmaking, he’s been averaging around five assists per game over the last month and will be interesting to see if the Raptors give him the ball in the low block like Nikola Jokic.
Gasol has a wide passing range that will benefit the likes of elite shooter Danny Green and improving marksman Fred VanVleet. If the center is given the playmaking chance, he is sure to create more open shots and better-quality shots than the Raptors are used to.
Despite a tough season this year, the Grizzlies were still superb defensively. Though Gasol is ageing, he’s still a wily operator on the defensive end and will improve the whole unit. In fact, they have now moved to +900.00 in the latest basketball odds.
— Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) February 8, 2019
However, there are things that could go wrong with the arrival of Gasol. A front-court logjam has now developed, there are three guys that want to play the power forward and center position. Serge Ibaka has been outstanding this term since Nick Nurse has moved him to the five, making the team a lot more fluid and athletic. Cameroonian revelation Pascal Siakam acts as this side’s Draymond Green, bringing so much energy and cutting edge.
Despite this, Gasol will expect to start, resulting in at least one of Ibaka or Siakam heading to the bench.
The most likely scenario is a combination of Gasol and Siakam will be the favoured duo, making use of Gasol’s quality and experience, while Siakam brings aggression and much-needed energy.
Gasol to Toronto looks a terrific move and, if it all works out well, the Raptors should be heading for the Finals.