The NBA and Trade Rumours go together like the Toronto Raptors and Marc Gasol. See what I did there? Call it Memphis Day at Raptors Republic after Anthony Doyle wrote a beautiful piece on the Raptors’ sustainable (if unfortunately forgettable) core in the wake of the Grizzlies mess. It’s time to address the rumours, however veritable that Toronto could indeed be a possible landing spot for Marc Gasol.
The “Big Burrito” (this was his nickname in a Memphis high school – can we please start using this in regulation again?) was visibly upset after being benched in the fourth quarter last week and his coach was promptly fired. This isn’t to say Gasol was the reason Fizdale was let go, but the fact remains that Memphis is in a tailspin and the Raptors are rumoured to be itching to take advantage.
These rumours have basically snowballed from one source. NBA Insider Mitch Lawrence listed Toronto as one of several teams interested in landing the 32-year old All-Star so before everyone gets too excited it’s important to know this isn’t exactly a Woj Bomb. Among the teams Lawrence listed as being interested are the Raptors, Cavaliers and Celtics. If that sounds to you like it could shape into a bidding war then you’re absolutely right. The Raptors and Celtics have the most to offer, and the most to gain as both teams try to set up for a clash with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. While it’s important to remember that these rumours are just that, RUMOURS – let’s take a look at what it would take if this thing ever gained traction.
Assuming Memphis is aware of the King-of-Trades resume, chances are they won’t take Ujiri lightly. That means emptying the coffers for Gasol, and yet the Raptors draft picks are virtually non-existent. Where does that leave Toronto in their pursuit for the Big Burrito? Jonas Valanciunas. Yes, everyone’s favourite lightning rod will have to the be at the centre of any discussion in a deal for Gasol. He’s essentially a smaller, slower, softer…(you get the picture) version of the Grizzlies’ all-star so it’s time to start adding on some pieces. One of Jakob Poeltl or Lucas Nogueira is almost guaranteed to be involved in any package and even that is unlikely to be enough. Start scanning down the bench and your eyes might land on the recently signed Norman Powell…or Pascal Siakam.
Giving up JV is hardly difficult for Raptors fans to stomach. With his obituary in the bag (S/O to William Lou!) the only heartbroken fans belong to the indefensible JV Hive, and even they would have to appreciate the upgrade to Marc Gasol. The situation isn’t as black and white as a few young players and JV (Gasol comes with a $10 million dollar trade kicker after all) but if anyone is possible of making it happen, its Masai. So what would the Raptors look like if Toronto pulled off the heist?
A starting lineup of Lowry-DeRozan-Ibaka-Gasol with Anunoby or Powell (assuming neither find themselves in the trade). They would improve drastically on defence in a heartbeat, and receive an intelligent and dominant big man in the post on offence. As the shift to small ball spreads across the league, Gasol remains a lighthouse giving hope to other big men trying to survive the storm. He’s averaging 19.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists to go along with 1.7 blocks and 0.5 steals. He’s shooting a career-worst 42% from the field but has had to carry more of the load with Mike Conley out and is a 49% career shooter. He’s on a three-year contract that lines up beautifully with Lowry and Ibaka’s and would firmly put Toronto in a position to legitimately challenge Boston and Cleveland in the postseason. The Raptors are in a beautiful position of contending on a nightly basis while building for the future, yet a trade of this magnitude would instantly shift that balance. Is it worth it? Here’s a video of Gasol dominating the Raps to watch while you ponder.