The NBA trade deadline was filled with a plethora of trades such as the Milwaukee Bucks surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo with another shooter in Nikola Mirotic, and former no. 1 pick Markelle Fultz heading to the Orlando Magic.
Now, the Raptors can throw out a lineup of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard and Gasol. That is a scary lineup. A lineup that should worry the defending champion, Golden State Warriors.
How does this Gasol trade affect the Warriors?
If Toronto and Golden State were to meet in the NBA Finals in June, the Gasol acquisition makes the Warriors’ road to another championship much more difficult.
The Spain product provides a skill-set that fits the modern NBA style. He is an excellent passer, averaging 3.4 assists per game for his career, including a career-high 4.7 assists this season. Gasol is a premier low-post passer, interior passer and top of the key passer.
Below, is a simple pick-and-roll play with Mike Conley and Gasol, where Gasol gets the pass from Conley, dribbles to the middle of the floor. He anticipates Tony Allen cutting from the baseline and throws a slick behind-the-head pass perfectly into Allen’s hands.
Now, imagine Leonard, Siakam or Anonuby receiving this pass from Gasol.
That is a scary thought for the rest of the Eastern Conference and a concern nestled in the back of the minds of the Warriors.
In the next clip, Conley passes to Gasol in the post and the Grizzlies run a variation of a post-split cut action. Then Conley gets a screen from Kosta Koufos, who breaks free from his defender, slips the screen and gets a dunk.
The opposing center is in no man’s land and does not know whether to pick up Conley or Koufos, so Koufos slips it and gets a dunk.
Why is this a possible concern for the Warriors?
Well, the Warriors have a player of their own, in DeMarcus Cousins, who is a phenomenal passer from anywhere, but especially in the post. However, the size and skill of Gasol can match and potentially neutralize what Cousins can do on the offensive end.
Although Gasol’s scoring output may be down from a season ago from 19.5 to 15.7 ppg this season, he is still an effective player in the post and from the perimeter as well. He can shoot the baby hook shot, along with his tippy toe jumper.
In the midrange area, on the season, Gasol is shooting 43.8 percent from 15-19 feet and 42.6 percent from 20-24 feet. On shot attempts from less than five feet from the basket, the Spanish big man is shooting 62.2 percent.
Gasol’s perimeter shooting is mirrored to the type of shooting that Cousins could do. On the season, since Cousins made his Warriors debut on January 18th against the Clippers, he is shooting 100 percent from 15-19 feet and 50 percent from 20-24 feet. These are small sample sizes for Cousins, but he has shown the shooting touch is back.
In the clip below, the Warriors run their patented post-split with Green in the post.
Cousins screens for Klay Thompson, who curls around the screen, cutting to the basket, while Cousins pops out to the three point line. Green delivers a perfect pass into the shooting pocket and Cousins splashes home the three.
The perimeter shooting that Cousins and Gasol possess will cancel each other should the Warriors meet the Raptors in the Finals in June.
Defensively, Gasol should have the edge over Cousins. The Spanish big man does not have the defense-first mentality of a player such as Rudy Gobert, but the former 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year will make a big impact for the Raptors on the defensive side of the floor.
Toronto is currently eighth in the league in defensive rating at 107.1 and the addition of a former Defensive Player of the Year should help improve their defense even more.
The Raptors and Warriors would be a fun NBA Finals matchup. One team is going for their third consecutive championship, while the other would have exceeded expectations after multiple playoff failures.
Both teams have star power with Leonard, Lowry and Gasol headlining for Toronto and the five all-stars for the Warriors. They both also possess some excellent defenders including Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala for the Warriors and the Raptors have Leonard, Siakam, Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
The Warriors would have to be on their A-plus game the whole series because of the pressure that Toronto can put on a team defensively, but also they beat Golden State twice in the regular season, including a blowout at Oracle Arena.
Oh, and the blowout in Oakland was without Kawhi Leonard playing in uniform for Toronto. That is very telling. On both ends, the defending champs would have to be laser-focused against a solid, well-coached Raptors team.
June is only a few months away. In the meantime, we will find out if both teams make it out of their conference, and if they do, it could be one incredible NBA Finals.
The star-studded lineups, the offense, defense and coaching will tell the tale of whether a new champion will be crowned or if Golden State will continue its reign of terror on the league with a three-peat.