The Toronto Raptors are preparing for a reality without their title-winning centers. Can they succeed this season without Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol?
Serge Ibaka broke the hearts of Toronto Raptors fans when it was announced that he was headed to the Los Angeles Clippers to join his pal, Kawhi Leonard. There was great hope that Serge Ibaka would run it back with the Raps and reports were that the club was also interested in retaining the forward. Perhaps even more crushing was the news that Marc Gasol was also headed to LA to join the Lakers.
So far, Ibaka himself hasn’t explained his reasoning for the departure. Fans are left guessing whether Ibaka flew south for the sunshine, to chase another ring, or to reunite with the Klaw. There is also a possibility that I-block-A left because he was unhappy with the Raptors, though there is no indication that that’s the case. He always appeared content and said all the right things even though he regularly came off the bench for the first time in his career in Toronto.
Gasol will take to the court for the first time in his career wearing a Lakers jersey despite being drafted by that organization in 2007. He was subsequently traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for his brother Pau. This return helps further construct a LeBron James led superteam that’s already acquired Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, and Wesley Matthews this offseason.
Can we trust Chris Boucher?
The departure of their versatile centers means that the Toronto Raptors have lost two of the best rim protectors in the association. Gasol and Ibaka’s ability to knock down shots from the range also allowed them to spread the floor for the team. That’s a role that Chris Boucher would love to fill as a potential replacement option at center for Toronto.
Boucher stands 6’9″, which is three inches shorter than Ibaka and two inches shorter than Gasol. The Saint Lucian-born Canadian was extended a qualifying offer making him a restricted free agent. He then signed a two-year extension worth $13.5 million.
Boucher is highly talented and the first player in the G-League to ever win both the league’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards. There is no doubt that Boucher has incredible potential to become a regular member of an NBA rotation. Without Gasol and Ibaka, he might get the minutes to prove that he belongs.
Playing behind Boucher is the Raptors’ only selection from the 2019 NBA Draft, Dewan Hernandez. He is still developing and is far from being a complete player. This makes for a worrisome situation upfront for the Raps. If they hope to have a chance to go deep into the playoffs next season, they will still need to add some personnel.
Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster did address the giant hole in the frontcourt on Sunday by luring Aron Baynes to the Big Smoke (er Tampa Bay). He inked a two-year deal with the Raptors for $14.3 million.
This means that unless the Raptors are able to pick up another center, they will be going with the tandem of Baynes and Boucher for the season. Though Baynes is a capable defender, it’s not an ideal situation for a team that would like to compete for another title.
It’s tough to see the charismatic player from the Congo leave town, but now is not the time for Toronto Raptors management to wallow in disappointment. Now, it’s for Webster and his team to find a way to make the club as competitive as possible by finding Ibaka’s replacement. Hopefully, he will be successful in this effort.