Pau Gasol is still entertaining the thought of returning to the Memphis Grizzlies, although this is neither ideal nor easy. Zach Randolph is the Grizzlies' primary personnel focus. That can't be shifted in favor of their best player's brother, who is losing his game.
In December, Gasol told NBA.com he found the idea of returning to the Grizzlies "appealing."
Such a move would have been difficult due to the Grizzlies' need to move assets in order to obtain the 33-year-old.
Gasol said in a Spanish interview with MARCA.com that his preferred teams in free agency are the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls (team names translated by The Commercial Appeal).
Randolph comes first
Now is a more acceptable time to bring this to the table since the Grizzlies are in a fluid payroll situation, with Randolph yet to decide on his contract option.
However nice a thought the placement of Pau and Marc Gasol together on the Grizzlies' roster may be, it would be erased if Randolph were to exercise his $16.9 million option.
Even if he declines it, Marc's frontcourt partner of the past five years is a strong possibility to re-sign with Memphis. Randolph's situation was listed by The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) as the most important aspect of the Grizzlies' offseason.
Retaining him is a proper priority at the position. Ed Davis, who will be a restricted free agent, doesn't appear to be in the Grizzlies' plans after he hardly played down the stretch and in the playoffs. Besides, Davis' agent, Rob Pelinka, might push another team to give more than the Grizz would be willing to match, which Marc Stein of ESPN.com called a safe bet.
Randolph doesn't seem to be declining quickly. He was right around his career averages with 17.4 points per game on 46.7 percent from the field in 2013-14, although he shot 48.5 percent in games Marc played.
The 12-year pro remains a strong rebounder, pulling down 10.6 boards per 36 minutes and placing 18th in total rebounding percentage at 17.4 percent.
His usage rate jumped from 23.1 to 26.1 percent, as he reasserted himself to keep the Grizzlies competitive.
Those figures seem more sustainable than Pau's.
The elder Gasol averaged 19.9 points per 36 minutes on 48 percent shooting and produced 102 points per 100 possessions. In the first two months of the season, however, those numbers were just 44.3 percent and 96, respectively. He had a 16.4 percent total rebounding rate for the season.
In other words, he didn't turn it on until after L.A. had commenced tanking.
Also, Randolph has missed only nine games in the past two years, compared with 53 for the Spaniard who won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The younger Gasol stated that he would intercede in his mate's contract talks "if things get ugly."
Per the aforementioned ESPN.com piece, Randolph's market price is three years for $30 to $35 million.
Making it work on the payroll
Such a price explains why Marc spoke tentatively when asked by MARCA.com about Pau's possible landing in Memphis.
As translated by The Commercial Appeal (subscription required), the 29-year-old Gasol said, "It would be an option to see Pau in Memphis, but it would be complicated."
If Randolph, who told ESPN.com last year he wants to retire with Memphis, re-ups, Pau's contract would need to fit into the frame of roughly $10 million below the luxury tax threshold with one or two more players to sign.
That would likely mean a steep discount for a veteran star who has made more than $10 million for the past nine seasons.
Pau Gasol is a luminary of the Grizzlies' history and doesn't need to be part of its future unless he's willing to make a great sacrifice in terms of money and playing role.
Randolph is lumbering through the backside of his career as a serviceable big man. He remains capable of stacking double-doubles while syncing inside offense with Marc Gasol.
Meanwhile, the eldest Gasol brother is struggling to stay healthy while playing productive ball in a couple dozen games per year.
If the Grizzlies ask themselves the unlikely question of whether Randolph or Pau is more desirable, their stalwart of the past four postseason appearances is the choice.
Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.