ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski woke up the NBA world by reporting news of franchise star Kyle Lowry signing a one year/$31 million dollar extension on Monday morning.
Wojnarowski would go in depth on why the Raptors felt like offering the star an extension, even though the franchise is in an awkward spot in terms of being competitive. You can find his breakdown here.
While Lowry is a star in this league and a defending champion, there’s a headline beneath this news. Woj broke down the franchise’s options going forward, mainly in terms of their big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The direct quote can be found below:
“Toronto still has flexibility to create a maximum salary-cap slot for 2020-21 free agency. Toronto has two key frontcourt players — Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol — on expiring contracts this season. If Toronto management doesn’t love its team’s chances of making a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it will have the option of testing Ibaka’s and Gasol’s value on the trade market. The NBA’s Most Improved Player, forward Pascal Siakam, is negotiating a possible rookie extension now. He is expected to be the offensive focal point of the post-Leonard Raptors.”
Adrian Wojnarowski is no slouch at reporting NBA news, and there’s likely a reason he included this quote within the report.
Toronto will definitely weigh their options as the season progresses. Recently losing a top three talent in Kawhi Leonard, the franchise is in a spot between being heavily competitive and rebuilding. The team still has win-now pieces from their championship team, but it may not be enough to compete in a top heavy Eastern Conference featuring the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
There’s a chance the Raptors will disappoint in terms of what the front office wants out of the team. If that’s the case, the team may move Marc Gasol to another contender, who would be a major piece for a team in a championship run.
Marc Gasol is old, there’s no denying that. However, the center has aged somewhat well as he added a reliable three point shot and is still mobile. He’s a solid player in today’s NBA, but his biggest value is being an Embiid-stopper in the postseason.
Joel Embiid is arguably the best big man in the NBA and is incredibly dominant. The young star does have his fair share of weaknesses, however. Outside of his teammate Al Horford, Gasol is the best defender on Embiid in the entire NBA.
The LA Clippers are likely favorites to win it all this year, but the team does have a glaring weakness at the center spot. Montrezl Harrell is an energizer off the bench, but asking a 6’8″ body to guard a 7’2″ Joel Embiid is just unfair. The team also has options with Ivica Zubac and Jamychal Green, but it’s unlikely they could limit Embiid.
The Clippers, along with other teams, could increase their chances of winning an NBA championship drastically by adding Marc Gasol if a Western Conference team meets the Sixers in the NBA Finals.
It really all comes down to how the Toronto Raptors do this season; will they still be towards the top of the Eastern Conference or will they look to retool around Pascal Siakam? It’s a huge question with no easy answer, however Masai Ujiri has proven to work well in tough situations. This is something the NBA world should monitor going forward.