Toronto Raptors have too much money invested in centers

Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors currently have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA. A lot of that is down to the money that they have invested in the center position, which might just be too much.

An NBA title wouldn’t have been possible for the Toronto Raptors without the help of a lot of players, that rings true for their starting center and back-up center, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Without their rim protection and scoring bursts, the Raptors would have been doomed long ago.

As it stands though, both players are set to earn a pretty penny this season. Gasol is set to make $25,595,000 after opting into his player-option for the year, while Ibaka is on the books for $23,271,605 for the final year of his deal.

That’s a lot of money for two players, especially two centers. Both of whom will into their thirties during the season.

The NBA is an ever-developing league, changing its formula with the latest trend in the game or with whatever team is having the most success. Recently, it’s the Raptors that have had the most success, winning their first-ever NBA title this past June. Before that, it was the Golden State Warriors, winning three of the last four NBA Finals.

They did so with a certain line-up that was able to run teams off of the court. With Draymond Green — an undersized 6-foot-7 power forward — a center, the Warriors rolled out small line-ups that teams just couldn’t handle, especially after acquiring Kevin Durant.

Rarely using a center in crunch time, the Warriors found success time and time again. The dynasty may well have come to an end but the imprint they have left on the league is still prevalent, even if a select amount of teams are looking at upsizing their starting line-ups, namely the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers.

Both teams have aspirations to play two centers in their starting line-up this season. The Sixers with Al Horford and Joel Embiid and the Pacers with Domantis Sabonis and Myles Turner. The results can go either way, and time will tell on that front.

The Toronto Raptors have no intentions of running that line-up all that often though, especially with Ibaka and Gasol. We saw snippets of that line-up in the playoffs and the regular season and the results were mixed. They can work for a short period of time but long sustainable stints seem a lot less likely.

Ibaka seems far more likely to reprise his role as the Raptors back-up center this season, with Gasol taking on the starting duties. If that’s the case, that is a lot of money to invest in two centers. Gasol is heading to his age-34 season and would likely find his minutes cut down to avoid fatigue. He played 24.9 minutes per game in the regular season and 30.6 minutes per game in the playoffs – both career-lows.

If we’re being truthful, the Raptors aren’t contenders with this current team. It’s a strong team capable of winning 50 games, but there’s definitely a cap on the teams ceiling, considering the talent in the Eastern Conference. There are at least two teams who are considerably better than the Raptors, and maybe two or three more who have a reason to believe that they are better.

Toronto can noticeably upgrade their team, but financially it’s difficult. The center market in the NBA is already saturated, and if teams are willing to play without a center for long stretches then the need to pay them so handsomely becomes redundant. With the Raptors paying Gasol and Ibaka a combined $48,866,605 this season — almost half of the team’s salary cap — they could be seen as unfavorably going against the grain.

That remains the case if the Raptors have designs to play Pascal Siakam at center for stretches this season, or even Chris Boucher, for that matter. There may be instances when neither Ibaka or Gasol are on the court. For that much money, that’s not an ideal scenario.

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Both players are more than deserving of their money, but for one team to be paying both players simultaneously, especially when not fully in title contention, doesn’t project to be something that happens often. For good reason too. Centers are more valuable than ever, but that doesn’t mean there should be an overabundance of them on your team.