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Toronto Raptors

Breaking down Marc Gasol's debut with the Toronto Raptors

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Marc Gasol (NBA Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors made a big move ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, turning Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright and a future second-round pick into Marc Gasol.

With the trade now official, the three-time All-Star made his Raptors debut on Saturday when the team traveled to New York to take on the Knicks.

Gasol came off the bench in the 104-99 win, the first time he hasn't started a game since Dec. 26, 2008. He didn't have a huge performance, but he put the skill set the Raptors are hoping can help them make a deep playoff run on full display.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at Gasol's first game as a Raptor.

What were his stats?

MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK PF FGM-FGA 3PM-3PA FTM-FTA +/-
18:48 7 6 1 2 1 1 3-7 0-0 1-2 3

How did he play?

Gasol took the floor for the first time with 2:20 remaining in the first quarter. While he didn't attempt shot or score a point in those minutes, he was active on the defensive end, coming up with a couple of rebounds and a steal.

Gasol looked more like himself in the second quarter, when the Raptors started to run the offence through him on the elbows, where he has led the league in touches in each of the last six seasons.

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He didn't end up with an assist to show for it, but Gasol set his teammates up with several open shots in the period, such as this 3-pointer from Norman Powell...

...and this layup from Fred VanVleet:

Gasol generated hundreds of assists on those types of looks in his time with the Memphis Grizzlies. His vision at the centre position should make a tremendous difference to a Raptors team that ranks in the bottom of the league this season in scoring off of cuts, both when he's playing with the starters and the second unit. Being 7-foot-1 allows him to see over the top of most defenders and he has excellent touch for a player his size.

Gasol's passing could become particularly valuable to the Raptors in crunch time. Rather than relying on Kawhi Leonard to create everything - his usage skyrockets to 39.4 percent in those situations, one of the highest marks in the league - Gasol gives them someone else they can run the offense through when the game slows down.

It's not an option they have in Serge Ibaka, who isn't much of a playmaker for himself or others. The former wasn't a problem for Valanciunas, but he never averaged more than 1.1 assists per game in his time with the Raptors.

Gasol scored his first basket as a Raptor in the second quarter, doing so on a pick-and-roll with Powell. He then knocked down his second a few minutes later on a face-up over Mitchell Robinson in the post, where he consistently ranks among the league leaders in scoring.

Gasol made only one more shot on the night - another jumper over Robinson, this time on a cut - but the ones he missed were makeable and came within the flow of the offence. There were also a couple of times where his gravity as a roller collapsed the defence and opened up scoring opportunities for others without him even touching the ball.

As for the other side of the court, Gasol showed off some of the instincts that helped him win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012-13. He quietly finished with two steals and one block - plus one charge drawn - his biggest stop of the night coming against DeAndre Jordan in the post.

Jordan isn't known for his ability to create his own shot, but it's that sort of physicality and length that the Raptors are hoping can help neutralize bruisers like Joel Embiid in the postseason.

What did he say about his performance?

On his emotions: "You're trying to get the rust off, you haven't played in a few days ... It's just exciting. You have a lot of energy, you try to be very unselfish, talking to guys, getting used to their tendencies and schemes, and give them a boost. So just very, very excited."

On his situation: "As a player, that's all you want, is a chance to compete for a title. Now I have it. I'm very appreciative of it and I'm enjoying every second of it.

On the impact he wants to make: "Make everyone's job easier on both ends of the floor. Trying to create for other people and myself offensively, defensively try to help them communicate early, be physical, you know, just do the things that I'm used to doing."

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