The arrival of Kawhi Leonard has undeniably made the Toronto Raptors one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season. However, to increase their chance of winning the 2019 NBA championship title, Raptors President Masai Ujiri continues to find ways to upgrade their roster as much as they could. Before the February NBA trade deadline, the Raptors engaged in a blockbuster deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, trading Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick for veteran center Marc Gasol.
Marc Gasol may be older, but there is no doubt that he’s a much better center than Jonas Valanciunas. At 34, Gasol still hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down and his experience will undeniably be very useful for the Raptors when the real battle begins in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Gasol has already played his first two games as a member of the Raptors where he helped them beat the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets.
Marc Gasol only came off the bench in their recent games as Raptors Head Coach Nike Nurse decided to stick with his starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka. However, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Gasol is expected to have a more significant role in their upcoming games and could replace Ibaka as the Raptors starting center.
“That, however, will start to change — beginning Wednesday against the Washington Wizards or, as is more likely, next week after the All-Star break. Gasol could replace Ibaka in some matchups, as Toronto did with Valanciunas earlier this season. There also is a good chance Nurse will, at some point, try to go with a super big lineup, featuring Leonard at shooting guard, Siakam at small forward, Ibaka at power forward and Gasol at center (a lineup other East teams have said they won’t mind seeing).”
Nick Nurse has put Marc Gasol in 25 different lineup combinations in the dude's first two games. Here are some early impressions on how it's working out. https://t.co/YvGAAtDGtM— Danny Chau (@dannychau) February 12, 2019
Marc Gasol is still trying to make himself fit with the Raptors’ system, but his performance in the past two games showed why he deserves a spot in Toronto’s starting lineup. Aside from his ability to space the floor, Gasol also helps the Raptors improve their ball movement which was immediately noticed by Coach Nick Nurse in their 127-125 victory over the Nets.
As Bontemps noted, putting Marc Gasol in the Raptors’ starting lineup doesn’t necessarily mean that Serge Ibaka will be demoted to the bench. Coach Nick Nurse could use a lineup featuring Gasol as their center and Ibaka as their power forward. Ibaka could also remain as the Raptors’ starting center if Nurse decides to execute the small-ball strategy.