• Nikola Cuvalo

New Raptors Fit Analysis

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The Raptors were busy at the trade deadline, adding star power in centre Marc Gasol and rotational depth in guards Jeremy Lin and Jodie Meeks. Their search for a buyout-market big man did not result in the signing of Markieff Morris (who opted to sign with the Thunder instead), but it may end with Robin Lopez, and that’d be quite alright for a team as deep as Toronto.

No longer concerned with roster building, and seemingly content with the team it has assembled, the Raptors are instead focused on coalescing the pieces they do have into a fully functioning unit come playoff time. This Toronto team is deeper and starrier than any iteration before it; these Raptors hope to leverage their prowess on paper into a bona fide run at the NBA Finals.

Boasting a guard rotation of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Jeremy Lin, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet (once he returns from his thumb injury), the Raptors are virtually guaranteed access to heaps of playmaking and 3-point shooting come playoff time. Jodie Meeks may not even see a minute of post-season basketball on a healthy Raptors roster, and because of this, he is probably the lowest impact addition from the crop of newcomers. Should injury strike again during a playoff series, his ability to spot up in the corners and snipe catch-and-shoot threes will prove invaluable for a Raptor’s team oddly ranked 18th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (34.9% from deep as a team this year).

Represented among that #6ix-deep guard rotation, Jeremy Lin is acclimating to life in Toronto rather well, most recently producing a stout 8-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist performance in 25 minutes during Toronto’s 118-95 win against the Celtics. Lin operates the pick-and-roll with aplomb; he can space the floor in multiple-guard sets, and has the requisite combo-guard size and speed to match up across 3 positions defensively. From the buyout market and into Toronto’s lap, his arrival shores up Toronto’s supply of wings and ball-handlers, and spells disaster for opposing bench units.

Finally, we have the crown jewel; the Spanish delight, if you would. Marc Gasol has made an immediate impact for the Raptors, on both ends of the floor, and in the locker room as well. Who would’ve thought that trading for a veteran All-Star centre with tons of playoff experience and two-way pedigree to play 20-30 minutes a night for an unproven championship contender would be a good idea?

Oh, that’s right, Masai Ujiri. And he hit the nail right on the head.

Gasol’s mere presence has boosted the Raptor’s passing numbers, as he has imbued his new team with a Spurs-esque style of ball movement stemming from his elite court vision; between his passing from the elbows, stepping out to unclog the paint and pop 3-pointers, and anchoring the paint on defense, there isn’t a single facet of the game that Gasol won’t cover at an average or exceptional level for these Raptors.

These Raptors were Finals contenders before their new imports – now that they’re here, and fitting in as advertised, they just might be the team to win it all in 2019.

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