If this was a high stakes poker game, Masai Ujiri is going all in.
The Toronto Raptors general manager has, in one swift move before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, changed the complexity of his team.
Ujiri has acquired veteran centre Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a second-round pick in 2024.
I think it’s fair to say that Toronto got the best player in the trade. The 34-year-old Gasol is a three-time NBA all-star who is averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals a game in 2018. The Spaniard is slated to make $24.1 million this year and has a player option for $25.6 million next season.
While averaging just under 19 minutes a game this season, Valanciunas, 26, has posted a career-high 12.8 points per game, and pulls down 7.2 rebounds per contest. He, too, has a player option for $17.6 million for next season.
The deal came at an interesting time for the big Lithuanian, who was expected to be in Toronto’s lineup for Thursday night’s game in Atlanta after missing the previous 25 games with a dislocated left thumb.
There are two reasons for this trade.
First, Gasol gives the Raptors a little more punch on both ends of the floor. Second, and more importantly, Ujiri is banking on this move helping Toronto go on a long playoff run, which may convince Kawhi Leonard to re-sign with the Raps after this season.
In both cases, this season and beyond, Ujiri is putting all his chips in the pot.
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