The Toronto Raptors were reported to have been one of the most active teams approaching the trade deadline. The pressure to win and to keep Kawhi Leonard, two things that go very much hand-in-hand, were the main factors essentially forcing general manager Masai Ujiri's hand.
After moving Greg Monroe and Malachi Richardson to the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers respectively, Ujiri got just cash back in both cases. He made it clear through those trades that he was saving up for a big contract, whether at the trade deadline or in a huge free agency this summer.
On Thursday, just hours before the trade deadline was to pass, Ujiri finally made that big move that he was expected to make. It wasn't for Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal (who wasn't available for trade anyway), both of whom were rumoured to be involved in a possible trade to the Raptors. Instead, it was for Memphis Grizzlies' long-time center, Marc Gasol.
The Raptors sent Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a second-round-pick to Memphis for Marc Gasol.
This trade hurts Raptors fans, especially the loss of JV. The Lithuanian big man was a homegrown talent, drafted to Toronto way back in 2011. He was easy to like, and his play on the court as of late has been phenomenal.
Emotion aside though, the trade makes sense.
CJ Miles has been an inconsistent shooter all season long, and a liability on defence. Although his play has picked up as of late, he likely would have been left out of the Raptors' playoff rotation, so losing him doesn't really hurt in the long run.
Delon Wright has been having a good season off the bench, and losing him hurts the Raptors' depth. However, he likely would have left as a free agent in the offseason anyway, so giving him up now for a veteran center to help the playoff push doesn't sting.
JV being included in this trade hurts. He's averaging 18.8 minutes per game to Gasol's 33.7, and averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 boards in that time. Gasol's numbers (15.6 points and 8.5 boards) are better, but the real story is the efficiency. Gasol is averaging only slightly better numbers in considerably more minutes and a considerably lower field goal percentage (44.3% to JV's 57.5%). Gasol is also a good deal more expensive than JV. However, Gasol's passing (4.6 assists to JV's 1.0) and defence are the key differences between the two centers that justify the trade.
Hopefully, the man known as "Big Spain" can give the Raptors the spark that they looked to be needing, whether off the bench or as a starter. His defence will most certainly be important come playoff time, when the Raptors need someone to take All-Star center Joel Embiid out of the game.
*All stats courtesy of https://www.basketball-reference.com