The Toronto Raptors have lost another big piece to their 2019 NBA Championship.
Savvy center Marc Gasol has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, according to multiple sources. The Spaniard’s departure comes the same day that Serge Ibaka joined the Los Angeles Clippers, reuniting with his former Raptors teammate Kawhi Leonard.
Gasol will sign a two-year deal, according to reports, leaving a big hole in the middle of the lineup for Toronto, even though Gasol at 35 is clearly on the downside of his career. The 7-foot Ibaka signed a two-year with the Clippers for a reported deal of $19 million.
Just months after winning the NBA title in Toronto in 2019, Gasol led Spain to gold in the FIBA World Cup.
Of the big three Raptors names who entered free agency, only guard Fred VanVleet was retained by Toronto. The 6-foot-1 VanVleet signed a four-year, $85 million contract and his return stabilized the Raptors’ backcourt.
Although Toronto was apparently zeroing in on re-signing Gasol, the chance to play with the defending champions and earn a second title in three seasons might have tipped the balance in favor of Los Angeles.
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Gasol, who was drafted by the Lakers in 2007, was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for his brother Pau before ever playing for Los Angeles. Toronto acquired Gasol at the 2019 trade deadline for a package that included Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright. The trade proved to be a critical deadline acquisition for Toronto that helped push the Raptors over the top.
The 6-foot-11 Gasol, who was the NBA’s Defensive Player of The Year in 2013, made an immediate impact in Toronto with his pass-first mentality and playmaking abilities in helping Toronto make its championship run.
But a hamstring injury limited Gasol’s abilities and he averaged a career low 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while being restricted to 44 games last season before Covid-19 shut down the regular season on March 11.
Gasol had slimmed down in the offseason, but he was never able to rediscover the success he had the previous season and his offensive production fell off considerably. During the playoffs this past season, Gasol shot just 18% from three-point range and averaged six points as the Raptors fell to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Last year, Gasol opted in with Toronto by exercising his $25.6 million player option for the 2019-20 season.
The Raptors struck quickly to shore up the center position with the moves of Ibaka and Gasol. The NBA club has reportedly signed New Zealand-born Australian forward Aron Baynes and re-signed Chris Boucher.
Baynes signed a $14.3 million contract, according to The Athletic, while ESPN is reporting that Boucher reportedly signed a deal worth $13.5 million.
Baynes, 33, spent the past season with the Phoenix Suns, averaging a career-best 11.5 points a game. He has also spent time with the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.
Source: Forbes – Business