Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol is exercising his $25.6M player option for next season, returning to the defending NBA champions, league sources tell ESPN. Gasol could’ve entered free agency.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2019
The dominoes of free agency have started to fall. Part of enjoying the great game of basketball in this era, is enjoying the drama of free agency. Ever since Lebron James left Cleveland for the sunny shores of Miami he pioneered the modern era superteam: stars teaming up for a better chance to win. Think of stars who have left to win: Anthony Davis, Paul George and (presumably) Gordon Hayward. Stars team up, and it is rare that one has a real contender without at least one big free agent signing. The Raptors themselves are in the middle of the free agency rumors. Kawhi Leonard is rumored to be picking between the Raptors and the Clippers, and Danny Green is an in-demand free agent.
Marc Gasol accepting his player option bodes well for the Raptors. Gasol was the 4th, and sometimes the 5th option on offense for the Raptors. He probably could have declined his player option a la Al Horford and tried to secured a longer contract. Gasol decided to stay with the Raptors to get his last big payday and to compete. Marc accepting his player option is a good sign for the Raptors. They retain the services of the man who stopped Nikola Vucevic and limited Embiid, and in this league stretch 5s are necessary. It could also bode well for retaining the rest of the team: he mentions that his decision would be affected by Kawhi Leonard leaving or staying, so it could bode well for retaining Leonard as well.
Retaining Gasol is important. In the case of Kawhi staying then this Raptors team can run it back. If not, surely Masai Ujiri will be able to get Gasol to a contender and get assets in return. Retaining Gasol for a year has minimal risk and the possibility of a repeat. A lot of the focus on this free agency has been on Kawhi Leonard staying or going and for good reason. However that overshadows the importance of other players to this team and it was crucial for Gasol to accept his player option. Next year the Raptors open up a lot of cap space. Contending for a year until the big contracts come off the books is an attractive option for everyone. Gasol accepting his option bodes well for Leonard staying. However until that last domino falls, the Raptors need to stay vigilant and prepare for any eventuality.