The Bucks’ closest rival in the standings was the last of the East’s Finals hopefuls to act prior to the trade deadline. Following the 76ers’ Tobias Harris deal, and the Bucks’ acquisition of Nikola Mirotic, the Raptors’ move for Marc Gasol seemed at least a little reactionary.
That line of thinking was further bolstered by a report from USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt last week, which indicated Mirotic was Toronto’s original target before Milwaukee caused them to pivot.
Of course, none of that is to suggest the deal was bad for the Raptors. At 34-years-old, Gasol is by no means the player he was in his prime, but he still represents a notable upgrade for Toronto.
Gasol possesses similiar size to Jonas Valanciunas, but in swapping the pair the Raptors added a much more well-rounded and accomplished center. Gasol’s shooting adds an extra wrinkle for matchups against Toronto, as does his passing and interior defense.
In the context of a matchup with the Bucks, it doesn’t feel like the Gasol deal has turned a potential series on its head, though. By adding Gasol, the Raptors are set up to play the Bucks with a style similar to the one that saw them lose the season series 3-1. It can’t be overlooked that they’ll have the chance to do so with more talented personnel, but it doesn’t really answer any of the questions hanging over the Raptors.
If there were doubts over how Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have meshed, the Raptors’ collective chemistry and understanding is unlikely to be improved by a further shakeup at this point in the season.
Gasol’s passing should unlock new looks for Toronto offensively, but he isn’t going to unify an offense that takes on drastically different approaches depending on whether Leonard is on or off the floor.
The Raptors have impressive frontline talent, even as their depth is nowhere near as strong as it has been in the past, but have they the answers for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ well-oiled philosophies on both ends? Right now, it would seem impossible to answer that in the affirmative with any kind of confidence.