‘Can Never Replace’: Toronto Raptors’ Nick Nurse Opens up on Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s Departure from the Team

Published 12/03/2020, 8:00 AM EST
TORONTO, ON – MARCH 1 – Serge Ibaka (9) of the Toronto Raptors after hitting a 3 point shot during the 2nd half of NBA action as the Washington Wizards defeat the Toronto Raptors 105-96 at the Air Canada Centre on March 1, 2017. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)


The Toronto Raptors lost two of their powerful pieces during the off-season. Veteran bigs Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka both departed for the LA teams, after having been an important part of the Raptors’ 2019 NBA title run.

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Coach Nick Nurse recently spoke about how they were invaluable to the team, and that they would be missed in Toronto. He said:

“You guys know how much I love Marc and Serge. How much they did for us, you can never replace what we went through with those guys. They were a joy to coach; they were great players…. Everybody knows how great they were for the organization. Obviously, we got the title and another great season out of them and we’re gonna miss them.”

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Two pillars of the Toronto Raptors frontcourt

After being drafted by the SuperSonics/Thunder, Ibaka was later traded to the Magic. After playing just 56 games with them, the Magic traded him to the Raptors. From being reputed for his defense at OKC, ‘Iblocka’ turned into a two-way threat, with his outside shooting.

During his three and half seasons with the Raptors, Ibaka averaged 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 35% from three. Ibaka was a starter initially, but in the previous season, he became a powerhouse off the bench for them.

Gasol arrived in Toronto midway during the 2019-20 season when the Raptors traded away C. J. Miles, Jonas Valančiūnas, Delon Wright, and a 2nd round pick to get him. His offensive role decreased considerably, but he was their pillar on defense, who could occasionally shoot from three. He averaged 8.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and shot an impressive 40% from three.

Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors warms-up with the ball before the Toronto Raptors vs Miami Heat NBA regular season game at Scotiabank Arena on December 03, 2019, in Toronto, Canada (Miami Heat won 121-110) (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Have the Raptors found appropriate replacements?

After losing both of them in the same off-season, the Raptors were able to get a replacement only for Gasol. They brought in Aron Baynes, who had come off a career year with the Phoenix Suns. He will fit perfectly into the role Gasol had.

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But the lack of a proper replacement for Ibaka could hurt them. While it was always going to be tough to replace someone with that skill set, they have brought in Alex Len to increase their frontcourt depth. He can occasionally shoot, but will mostly be a lower-end rotational player.

The Raptors will be expecting to have another deep playoff run and will also prepare for the 2021 Free Agency.

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Aaron Mathew

1473 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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