The Toronto Raptors are coming off a successful NBA season and are looking forward to successfully defending their first championship title. However, they will have to do it without one of their main cogs, Kawhi Leonard. The All-Star forward opted to join the Los Angeles Clippers instead, leaving a big void in the frontline of head coach Nick Nurse.

The decision drew mixed reactions from NBA critics. Some felt Leonard would return for at least the coming season and help the Raptors defend their title. But then again, some knew as early as the last offseason that the two-time NBA champion would be headed back home to Los Angeles. And as most know by now, the latter is what exactly happened.

Not too many understood the logic behind Leonard's decision to join the Clippers, except for one man, Marc Gasol. The Spaniard spent only four months playing alongside the 15th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft but managed to establish a bond in the short time they were together.

“You can't blame the guy for wanting to go home. If you tell me I can go (to) Barcelona and make an absurd amount of money and play in the NBA ... I understand completely and respect it and wish him the best,” Gasol said to Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Gasol, acquired by the Raptors via trade from the Memphis Grizzlies last February, may have some decision-making as well after the 2019-20 NBA season. He opted in the final year of his deal and will earn $25.6 million for the coming season. At 34, it will be interesting if he too follows Leonard in moving to another ballclub.

One factor in that will be his performance with the Raptors this coming season. He showed that he can be a force to reckon with on both sides of the court, hinting that he will play a pivotal role in the title-retention campaign of the Raptors. His durability will also be another point of consideration. With plenty of young players coming in, Gasol needs to prove he can still keep in step on the court and health-wise.

As mentioned in a past post, Gasol has practically achieved everything an NBA player could yearn for. He is a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2013), a three-time NBA All-Star and most of all an authentic NBA champion. With quite a resume, the only thing left right now for the Spaniard is how many more titles he can win and how he can wrap his career in grand fashion.

Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol may be key in convincing Kawhi Leonard to stay after the 2018-19 NBA season. Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts on the bench during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on December 21, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Getty Images/Ezra Shaw