The definitive starting lineup of the decade for the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Marc Gasol (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Marc Gasol

Picking the center spot might just have been the toughest choice of them all when building this All-Decade team. On the one hand, there’s Jonas Valanciunas: the former fifth overall pick who spent seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors. JV continuously adjusted and tinkered with his game to fit what the Toronto Raptors needed from him.

If they wanted him to become a better passer, he did that. He became a much more effective defender than he was made out to be, too. Valanviunas was in the minus for Defensive Box Plus-Minus just twice in his Raptors career and considering his reputation as a turnstile defender at times, that comes as a nice surprise.

Towards the end of his Raptors tenure, he began to stretch his game out to the three-point line, and the “Death, taxes, and JV threes” call was born. It wasn’t high volume sorts of action, but it was a timely reminder that Valanciunas was always looking to improve.

Often underutilised or misused, Valanciunas had a great post-game that the Raptors rarely leaned in to. He was a strong offensive player, but as the third star on the Raptors teams featuring Lowry and DeRozan, JV never averaged more than 11 field-goal attempts in a season.

He helped make the Toronto Raptors a better team. But, Marc Gasol helped make the Raptors NBA champions. Gasol hasn’t been a member of the Toronto Raptors for even a year, but his impact was, essentially, the tipping point for the Raptors in their pursuit for a title.

Gasol was everything the Raptors needed. He’s a sensational passer, interior defender, and floor spacer – even if his numbers have dwindled in his second season. But, unlike in Memphis, Gasol doesn’t have to be the leading star. This role suits him perfectly.

He took down the likes of Nikola Vucevic and Joel Embiid en route to the Finals, and without him, both players could have dismantled the Raptors in the interior. He improved the Raptors style of play, the team became a highly efficient three-point shooting team and the assist numbers went up.

As good as Valanciunas was, it’s probably safe to say that the Raptors don’t win the title without Gasol on the roster.

Next. Five best point guards in Toronto Raptors history. dark

He might not here for long at all, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, but the impact he had on the team is enough to put him in the starting center position – the final spot on the team. And, just like that, we have our All-Decade team.