After seeing the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks make significant moves prior to the NBA trade deadline, it felt as though the Toronto Raptors had to follow suit. They did – bringing in Marc Gasol to add another proven playoff performer to the roster.
Too much talent is a good problem to have, but the Raptors are still working out the best way to fit Gasol into their deep rotation. Serge Ibaka has played so well as the lone big man in the starting line-up, and Pascal Siakam has emerged as such an explosive difference-maker, that Gasol has largely come off the bench thus far as a key playmaker with the second unit.
Sharing the ball
Head coach Nick Nurse has experimented with different line-ups all year and will no doubt continue to tinker, but Gasol’s basketball IQ gives him a head start in whatever role he is used. The Spaniard is already prompting more off-the-ball movement with his ability to find the perfect pass.
“I think you’re seeing a lot more cuts than we’ve seen around here in a long time since the addition of Gasol,” Nurse explained this week. “And I think you’re going to see a lot more because there’s a lot of guys getting layups at the end of it.”
An instant connection
Nurse also pointed to the way that Gasol and Kyle Lowry are already connecting. “They have a synergy there and they have a unique view of the game,” he said. “It’s two really smart guys together and that’s why you’re seeing some of this stuff without much time together.”
Gasol’s ongoing integration should be one of the bigger focuses for the Raptors in the remaining weeks of the regular season, allowing him to better understand his new team-mates’ tendencies. Still, his eight-assist night against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday suggests he has picked up a lot since his debut just before the All-Star break.
Meanwhile, Siakam is going from strength to strength, boosting his three-point percentage and routinely beating defenders down the court. His rapid development continues to be one of this season’s most fascinating stories.
“I started shooting threes two or three years ago, so I know it’s going to be hard,” he said. “For me, it’s just about going out there and trusting the work I put in.”