In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Raptors used their superior size to control the interior against the Warriors in a 118-109 victory. In the next game, Golden State’s DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green reasserted themselves with a combined 28 points and 20 rebounds to fuel a 109-104 bounceback win.
In that opening game, though, Marc Gasol was the difference for Toronto. He snagged seven rebounds, but also tallied 20 points on his own. This is why the 7-foot-1, 255-pound Spaniard was brought to the Great White North this past February.
The Memphis Grizzlies dumped $8.5 million on the Raptors’ cap this season just before the trade deadline. He has earned $24,119,025 this past season, and if Toronto picks up his player option this summer, he will rake in $25,595,700 next season. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Since leaving Memphis, he has averaged 9.1 points and 6.6 boards per contest. Will general manager Masai Ujiri give the 34-year old a chance to boost his numbers next year? Let’s look at possible future destinations for Gasol.
Marc Gasol Free Agency & Future Destinations
While his scoring and rebounding stats are down, Gasol still earns approval from head coach Nick Nurse for his passing and defending. Per Forbes:
Prior to the Gasol trade, Toronto ranked 20th in the league in assist percentage. But after Gasol arrived, the Raptors climbed to No. 4 in that category.
“We’ve made an emphasis on it of late—whenever you’re in trouble, throw it to Marc and starting flying,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said late in the season. “Because he’s going to start finding some passes, keep that thing facilitating and keep you moving.”
He was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. His size and basketball intelligence are assets that the Los Angeles Lakers desperately need to put around LeBron James. The team was in the bottom third of scoring defense this season.
This leads to writers like Joseph Patrick of International Business Times suggesting Gasol go to Los Angeles next season. He was a second-round draft pick to them in 2007 before getting traded quickly to the Grizzlies.
One department that the Lakers could improve on is the middle. LeBron James could thrive well playing alongside Marc Gasol if Los Angeles can adjust their salary budget properly. Most know that they are after another NBA star with the likes of Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving Butler mentioned in a previous post. At his age, Gasol could be an option where he could get at least a two-year deal.
Lastly, Michael Mannen of Nugg Love suggested that Gasol would be an upgrade defensively as a backup center behind the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic.
Gasol is also a better defender than Millsap. During the regular season, Gasol averaged a defensive win share of .127 per game. When the Raptors won during the regular season, Gasol was ranked 15th in the NBA in defensive win shares per game.
If Denver picks up Gasol and dumps Paul Millsap’s salary, the franchise will save about $6 million in cap space. A lot of the basketball world will be waiting to see what Toronto does with Gasol’s player option, and will be ready to act if he is sent into the free agency market.