NBA Teams Pau Gasol Should Be Keeping His Eye on
Pau Gasol will likely keep an eye on the playoffs to determine the team he wishes to join this summer. There are probably a few squads that Gasol will be rooting against with the hope of joining one of them in the offseason.
Indeed, if Gasol joins a team that gets eliminated this postseason and wins the title next year, it will be a clear sign that he was the missing piece.
Hence, we will take a look at this year’s title contenders and see how Gasol would fit with them. In order to figure out which teams will generate the most interest, we will look at their rosters, style of play and actual title chances.
In our premise, the better the team, the less likely it is Gasol signs there because his role might not be as big as initially anticipated, and the team could very well win the title without major contributions from him.
Some might want to attach a financial component to the decision-making process, but Gasol has already made it clear over at PauGasol.com that money will not play a big part when he picks where to sign.
Still, for the sake of clarity, we will iron out contract details to ensure that his free-agent decision is actually realistic.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder might be the team most desperate for Gasol’s services given their identity. The Thunder run a lot of isolations and rely heavily on the talents of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to get other players shots.
By signing with OKC, Gasol would give the Thunder a rare player capable of creating shots for himself and others on occasion. Oklahoma City gets virtually no low-post scoring, which means the Thunder do not always manufacture easy shots without the help of Westbrook and Durant.
Gasol could play in a reserve role and steal Kendrick Perkins’ fourth-quarter minutes. That would free up what normally is a congested paint with Perkins on the floor.
It’s worth noting that after spending six years playing next to Kobe Bryant, Gasol might not be enamored by the idea of playing with two ball-dominant perimeter players.
OKC is scheduled to be slightly beneath the luxury-tax line next season, which means they could only bring in the Spaniard at the veteran’s minimum of $1 million.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat already possess a championship core, but the road to titles has gotten more difficult with each passing season. The team has used multiple players at center, but the returns have not always been good.
The three-headed monster of Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Greg Oden has rotated at the position because none of the players have done enough to hold the job. Chris Bosh has played at center in small-ball lineups, but he has had issues with physical centers and might want to avoid them altogether.
Gasol could easily play alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh because of his passing and mid-range shooting.
The Heat could deploy him as a starter or reserve, and what’s more, Gasol’s presence would give Miami an opportunity to pair an elite wing player (Wade or James) with an above-average interior player (Bosh or Gasol) consistently throughout games.
Gasol only considers the Heat if the team brings back the Big Three next season, and that probably means there won’t be much money under the cap left for the Spaniard.
Hence, Gasol would likely have to sign at the veteran’s minimum to join the Heat. After making $19.3 million, cutting down the money to that point might be a tough sell, but then again, Gasol is interested in competing for rings, an opportunity that Miami would undoubtedly give him.
3. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets could certainly use a backup center in the mold of Gasol to spell Dwight Howard. Omer Asik is a terrific defensive player, but he offers next to nothing on offense other than catching and finishing directly at the rim.
Hence, Gasol could anchor the second unit with his low-post scoring and even replace Howard late in games when the coaching staff is worried about teams fouling Howard because of his poor free-throw shooting.
Head coach Kevin McHale likes using small-ball units, but Gasol will still see minutes next to Howard. Houston wants its power forwards to shoot the long-range shot, which means Gasol will not be an ideal fit, but McHale should be able to incorporate him into his offense at the elbows.
The Rockets can use the $5.3 million mid-level exception to sign Gasol, or they can trade Asik for a draft pick and sign Gasol with their cap space for a salary up to $7 million annually.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City has a championship coach in Doc Rivers coupled with two MVP-type players in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Clippers need a reserve big man to put them over the top because DeAndre Jordan’s defense fluctuates between decent and subpar.
Given that he has no offensive game and that he is an incredibly poor foul shooter, keeping him on the floor late in games comes with mixed results. Gasol would give the Clippers quality play alongside either Jordan or Griffin, and more importantly, Rivers would have a solid interior player with championship experience to close out games.
Gasol could only sign for the minimum with Los Angeles because they are already projected to be over the luxury tax. The Clippers might not mind adding salary while above the tax line, but in the event they do, they would need to clear roughly $7 million, which could be difficult.
Their best bet would be to waive Jamal Crawford, who is set to make $5.5 million next season (only $1.5 million guaranteed if released before the start of free agency), and trade away Jared Dudley for a draft pick.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
His family ties will probably play a part in his decision, and so will the team. The Grizzlies often enter the playoffs as a lower seeded team, but their toughness gives them opportunities to advance.
Since Marc and Zach Randolph have been paired, they have had one of the best defenses in the league, and it carried them all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season.
Pau is just as talented as his brother in terms of dishing the rock, and he would give the Grizzlies some solid second-unit low-post scoring. Before even signing their draft pick this summer, Memphis will be on the cusp of the luxury tax next season, which means the Grizzlies will have to sign Gasol for the veteran’s minimum and go over the tax line.
Otherwise, Memphis can waive Kostas Koufos before the start of free agency, because his $3 million contract only becomes guaranteed on the first day of July.
1. San Antonio Spurs
There might not be a better fit for Gasol than the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich runs a beautiful motion offense predicated on spacing, cutting, ball movement and passing, where Gasol would probably flourish. He is a threat from every spot around the paint because of his ability to pass on the move and score.
Also, Gasol can make three-point shots every now and then, especially from the corners. His ability to read defenses will certainly help him find Tim Duncan on high-low plays for easy scores.
Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are the frontcourt players who get the bulk of the minutes alongside Duncan, but Diaw is set to become a free agent, and Splitter is somewhat limited as an offensive player. Thus, Gasol would give the Spurs some quality size to counter the athleticism of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat.
It stands to reason that Gasol’s interest will be tied to Duncan. If the Big Fundamental retires in the offseason, Gasol might be apprehensive about joining the Spurs. San Antonio will have around $9 million in cap room this summer, and it could theoretically spend it all on Gasol.
Granted, a two-year deal averaging $7 million annually seems like a great offer to secure Gasol’s services.
Salary information courtesy of Sham Sports.