The Toronto Raptors spared no expense when celebrating their NBA Finals win. Not only did the team put on a fantastic championship parade through the city, but they gave the players on the Finals’ roster gargantuan championship rings that made headlines due to their size and ornate sensibilities. However, the team might have gotten cheap with the rings even while spending big on the pieces of jewelry.
The Raptors’ championship season
The Raptors title run was unique in that it was the first ring in the franchise’s history in its first trip to the Finals. On top of that, with many presuming that Kawhi Leonard would only be a one-and-done player for the team, the conflation of events that led to the ring felt unique compared to the previous four years that featured the same two teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, battling for the ring.
After missing the majority of the 2017-18 season with an injury, Leonard’s return to the court was heavily anticipated. He treated Toronto to the best season of his career, averaging nearly 27 points per game to go with seven rebounds and three assists. On defense, he was the same player he’s been known to be, locking down the other teams.
On top of Leonard, Lowry served as a leader, and Pascal Siakam had another breakout season that showed that the promising young player had star potential as the second-leading scorer of the championship team. With the renaissance of Serge Ibaka as a defensive force, the emergence of Fred Van Vleet, and a bench that proved that it could hang with teams without their starters, the team proved to be too much for even the best teams in the East.
The addition of Marc Gasol, however, may have been what put the team over the top.
Adding Marc Gasol changed the Raptors
The team did not acquire Gasol for nothing. They had to give up guard Delon Wright, forward CJ Miles, and fan-favorite big man Jonas Valanciunas. Wright and Miles were valuable contributors to the team, but Valanciunas was there during the trials that led to the Leonard acquisition, many at the hands of LeBron James.
Valanciunas joined the Raptors in 2013, and he was the team’s starting center over the majority of the next six seasons. Fans loved his feisty attitude and relentless play down low. Valanciunas added a little bit of toughness to the team beneath the basket, and while he might not have been a star for the team, he was a vital cog for many years.
Trading him for an aging Gasol was not a bad move, but it marked the end of an era for another major piece of the team’s rise. Write and Miles had their moments in Toronto, but it was Valanciunas’s trade that resonated most. Many wondered if the team would offer rings to the players who got them Marc Gasol, but the team declined.
Did the Raptors get cheap with their championship rings?
The Raptors made some truly ornate rings. With more than 600 diamonds, 16 rubies, and an overall design that not only paid tribute to the players on their Finals roster but the city of Toronto, the team clearly wanted to honor everybody. The players traded away, however, were not among them.
According to The Score, the team’s general manager, Bobby Webster, tried to justify it by saying they consulted with other teams.
“It’s not an easy decision, but, to be honest, I think it’s standard,” Webster said. “I mean we did our homework, we talked to teams, and I think — I don’t remember — there was maybe one scenario where a team offered one. I think it was Anderson Varejao in Golden State, but I think it was a really unique circumstance.”
While guys like Miles and Wright had some history with the team that cannot be ignored, the decision to deny Valanciunas a ring is an interesting one. By invoking Varejao, Webster is talking about a guy who was cut by a team who never valued him as much as the Raptors did Valanciunas, and it doesn’t explain why he chose not to do so.
Whatever the Raptors’ reason for not giving Valanciunas and the others a ring, their decision does seem to make sense. It’s the team’s decision to give rings to who they want, and those three players still played a role in their NBA championship. The least they could have done was to reward them for their part.