With free agency at a stand still with the much rumored destinations of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, there’s one name that’s often mentioned among contenders that will come cheaper (maybe way cheaper than some suspect at a mid-level exception price) in power forward/center Pau Gasol.
Gasol is coming into this offseason from an impressive 17.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game season that was ended with injuries. Now that he’s off the Los Angeles Lakers’ payroll, he’s being sought after by numerous contenders such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and San Antonio Spurs.
While many speculate the chances of signing with the Spurs as slim, it’d be in Gasol’s best interest to sign with the 2014 NBA champions, if he chose to make his new home in San Antonio.
Gasol may have some advantages with other teams, such as more minutes or money, but San Antonio presents the best chance to win a title without sacrificing too much for this very reason, in that he’d have a greater impact on the team, without much of a burden on both ends of the floor.
The Spurs are bringing their championship core back and that’d be the best news for Gasol if he were to wear a silver and black jersey. He’d likely start next to Tim Duncan while coming off the bench would be Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. Pau would easily be a quick offensive option, without having to stress at creating his own shot. As we’ve seen, Duncan is open to being the first or last option in the offense, if teammates have better shots available. Gasol can be Tony Parker’s new pick-and-roll or pop partner, or be the recipient of an open pass by a teammate with the Spurs’ ball movement. With San Antonio moving the ball and forcing opposing defenses to scramble, Gasol would likely have a very good open look or the option to put it on the floor for an open layup/dunk. The high-low game between him and Duncan would give teams fits with both being able to play similiar styles. While both can pick-and-roll or pop, they can also have mid-range jump shots, and are able to post up. They can easily rotate who’s in the paint and perimeter, depending on matchups and mismatches during rotations.
Gasol’s versatility would also leave him as a great frontcourt player next to Splitter or Diaw, who compliment him well with their offensive games, but also with their defensive rotations. Pau has had a reputation of not being the best defender in the league, but the Spurs have been able to hide past players’ below average defense (Brent Barry and Michael Finley to name two) while winning championships. There’s also the Duncan factor, and he’d likely take over defensive anchor duties while Gasol takes over offensive duties in the big man department. Duncan’s slow legs may leave him vulnerable on the defensive end protecting the rim, as we saw this past season, but that was mainly because Duncan had more offensive responsbilities playing next to Splitter and Matt Bonner during the playoffs.
On other teams, Gasol may be forced to be the sole inside presence of a team and that’s not a role he’s been too comfortable with in the past. The Thunder and Bulls may depend on him to also play really good defense, to carry them through stretches when the rim protectors are out of the game. The named contenders for his services will likely have the same amount to offer him annually like San Antonio. With the Spurs however, it’s an entirely different story on the court. He would be going to the defending champions and having an equal role with the other four players on the floor, while likely having a great impact with the depth and versatility of the group. This makes the Spurs the best destination for Gasol to have a greater impact, and would make San Antonio an even bigger favorite for the 2015 NBA championship.