Should the Memphis Grizzlies Try to Bring Pau Gasol Back?

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIDecember 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 5: Brothers Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers greet each other before their game at Staples Center on April 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Pau Gasol recently expressed a desire to return to the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Grizzlies' front office doesn't seem like it would embrace sentimental deals. Acquiring him, either in a trade or offseason signing, could crimp their ability to angle at future championship contention.

Gasol made his interest in partnering with his younger brother, Marc, known to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, saying, "It's appealing. One of the best centers in the NBA, one of the best interior players, is my brother."

That Pau could once more don the three shades of blue—and, in doing so, hook up with Marc—is a nice thought. Grizz fans who have embraced the grind since their first playoff run 10 years ago recall Pau as the sole star on a team filled with role players. In each of his three playoff seasons in Memphis, he was the only player averaging more than 14 points per game.

If he were to rejoin the Grizz, he'd have two stars with him in Mike Conley and the 28-year-old Gasol.

Uniting these two Gasol brothers would be a storyline that all NBA fans could embrace. Pau and Marc have played seven years of international ball together. They formed the frontcourt of two silver medal Spanish Olympic teams.

SB Nation's Kevin Yeung endorsed the fantastical aspect of Pau's potential return.

 

No on-court benefit of combining these brothers

While joining Pau and Marc is a fun idea, Pau would do nothing to bring the Grizz closer to winning a championship.

Pau is in the midst of his worst season ever. He's shooting 44.6 percent from the field. His average of 17.7 points per 36 minutes is just 0.4 better than his rookie average.

The metrics frown on his offense. He's producing 97 points per 100 possessions and zero offensive win shares. He turns it over at a 13.3 percent rate, which is 0.6 worse than his career average.

Some may argue that Marc could make Pau better.

While Marc makes players around him better and has played well with Pau for the Spanish national team, one can hardly predict whether it would work the same in the American game. The eldest Gasol brother shot 57 percent in the 2012 Summer Games, but he played more minutes than Marc.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 8: Pau Gasol #4, Marc Gasol #13 and Jose Calderon #8 of Spain discuss the game against France during their Men's Basketball Game on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the North Greenwich Arena on August 8, 2012 in London,
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Additionally, the Grizzlies' front office would consider the net benefit of having Pau next season, rather than Zach Randolph or another power forward.

Randolph is shooting only 0.9 percent better from the field. However, the five-year stalwart of Memphis' interior is shooting better away from the rim. While Randolph is below 55 percent at the rim, he's better than 40 percent both in the rest of the paint and from mid-range.

NBA.com/stats

Meanwhile, Pau hits a fine percentage at the rim but an undesirable mark beyond three feet.

NBA.com/stats

Randolph's offensive rating is six points better than that of the former Grizzly.

Surprisingly, the two are almost even on the boards. Randolph has a 26.4 percent defensive rebounding rate and a 9.6 percent defensive rebounding rate, while the Los Angeles Lakers power forward grabs 26.8 percent of available defensive boards and 6.2 percent of the possible offensive boards.

Ed Davis is performing much worse on the defense boards than both, catching 16.8 percent of potential boards on that end.

The small-market franchise could opt for payroll flexibility by letting Randolph and Davis walk, not pursuing the older of the two Spanish stars, and drafting a big man.

Aside from a wistful belief that Pau could be better than Randolph or a new player for the 4 spot.

 

Making Pau's arrival payroll-friendly

Justifying such an acquisition requires less imagination if done in a trade than if it were an offseason signing. Dealing Randolph to create a Gasol frontcourt pair would work in terms of salary since the 33-year-old Gasol makes only $1.47 million more than Randolph for this season, which wouldn't push Memphis past the luxury tax threshold.

This isn't a new scenario, considering Peter Vecsey pushed the rumor of a swap involving the two in July 2012 via Twitter.

On the other hand, the basketball logic of such a deal is less firm now since both are further into the downsides of their careers.

Another avenue would be tabbing Pau on a deal less than $10 million per year after this season. That would require Randolph declining his $16.5 million option for 2014-15 and not re-signing.

Ultimately, this would put the Grizz in the position of switching one aging power forward for another, whether it's as a rental or a short-term deal.

 

Statistics are current through Dec. 28 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.