On February 7, the Toronto Raptors were a good basketball team. In fact, at 39-16, they were very good, and likely headed to the playoffs for the sixth straight seasons. But that wasn't enough for Toronto. Despite finishing as one of the Eastern Conference's four best teams each of the last five seasons, they have had little playoff success. The Raptors have still yet to win a championship in their 24-season history.
So that day, the front office decided to do something about it. They officially pulled off a blockbuster trade, acquiring veteran center Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a future second-round pick. Toronto meant business.
And so far, it's paid off. Gasol has changed the dynamic of the Raptors' entire team, as evidenced by their absurd point differential with the big man on the court. Via Ben Falk of Clean the Glass.
So, uh, the Raptors have been pretty good with Marc Gasol on the court.
In a little over 500 minutes with him playing they have a point differential of +16 per 100 possessions, the equivalent of a 73 win team.
— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) April 4, 2019
In a semi-regular role, the three-time All-Star has made a huge impact. In 23 games (16 starts) he has averaged 9.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 46.0%. He is a great defensive player, and overall his presence has transformed the Raptors.
According to Spotrac, Gasol has a $25.5 million player option for next season. If he declines, he can hit free agency this offseason.
Toronto, 56-23, had indeed clinched a playoff spot. They hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference, two and a half games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. ESPN's BPI Playoff Odds give the Raptors a 14.9% chance of winning the championship – higher than every team but the Bucks and the Golden State Warriors.