A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP TORONTO
ADDING MARC GASOL reminds me of when Cleveland went and got Shaq to help guard Dwight Howard. They're all in, so they got Gasol to guard Joel Embiid. If you go back to his games with the Grizzlies, Gasol made Embiid work. Gasol makes them better because in the playoffs it tends to become a half-court game, and he's just such a good fundamental player. There was a staleness that had set in with Memphis, so this should reenergize him.... If anyone expected this [improvement] from PASCAL SIAKAM, he would have gone a lot higher [than No. 27 in the 2016 draft]. It's just going to be whether he makes the open threes in the playoffs, because he's going to get them. He can score inside, his energy is great, and if he makes shots, he makes them so hard to guard.... I don't really sweat rotating their bigs, because they'll be able to play two together, or they can play KAWHI LEONARD at the four with one of them at the five. Siakam can play the four or defend the three, so there's enough variability in their skill sets where they can integrate them. I wouldn't put it past them to experiment with smaller lineups in the playoffs, with Siakam and Kawhi. They don't have as much variance as some of the other teams in the East.... The knock on KYLE LOWRY is always whether he can show up in the playoffs and if his body can hold up. He went through a couple of weird phases this season, but when he has it going, he can still shoot and pass, and he plays hard.... You can make the argument that Kawhi is the trump card in the East because he's the best player in any series.
MARC GASOL can do a little bit of everything for Toronto. The 34-year-old import is a high-IQ center with a much wider skill set than Jonas Valančiūnas, who was the heart of the package shipped to Memphis. Gasol's buttery touch makes him an effective passer as well as a shooter out to the three-point line, and he has sound instincts on the defensive end. At 7'1" and 255 pounds, Gasol isn't the kind of big man you ask to switch late in the shot clock, but he can bang with Joel Embiid (and, if all goes well, Boogie Cousins) down low while keeping your offense humming.
Health could ultimately play a bigger role for the Raptors than any one acquisition. The starting five of Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Danny Green have played in only 28 of the team's 59 games through the All-Star break; they form the only five-man unit on the team to even appear together in 20 games. Having so many players in and out of the lineup, even for a team with so much flexibility, makes it difficult to develop chemistry. If Lowry (who has missed 12 games), Leonard (out for 16), Gasol and the rest are fully healthy come the postseason, Toronto will have the depth, flexibility and versatility to match multiple styles of play.
Ultimately, Gasol bolsters what the Raptors already do best: fill the floor with two-way players who can counter any move. He gives their Finals aspirations a big lift—as long as everyone can stay on the court.
2 TORONTO RAPTORS
KEY IN-SEASON MOVES
ACQUIRED: C Marc Gasol
LOST: C Jonas Valančiūnas / SF C.J. Miles
8.8 TELLING NUMBER
Improvement in Pascal Siakam's scoring average, the greatest among players averaging at least 16 points.