Marc Gasol

There’s only one thing Marc Gasol wants, and that’s to play for a championship team. With his free agency period on the verge of starting, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be playing for anyone but the Memphis Grizzlies. The only realistic option for him out there are the San Antonio Spurs.

Gasol made just over $15 million last season, and will be getting a maximum contract. If he signs with the Grizzlies, it means $18.6 million in year 1 of the contract which runs for five years, making a total of $107.1 million through that period. If he does sign for someone else it can only be for a four year period, through which he’ll make $82.9 million if it’ll be through his Bird rights. A standard deal pays him $3 million less over that four year period.

On paper, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why not to stay in Memphis. The team doesn’t lose anybody of value to free agency and seems to be in a win now mode, although with the Golden State Warriors lurking around, it might be difficult getting around that obstacle. More importantly, there is no team out there with sufficient cap space and the option of giving Gasol a title run. That is, including him joining the team.

Unless we’re talking about the San Antonio Spurs. The only players with a contract for next season are Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter (who they’ll try and trade), Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson. The rest are either retiring (Manu Ginobili) or under a magnifying glass. Except for Tim Duncan, who will do whatever he feels like. He has once again shown that despite his age and mileage, there’s plenty more basketball for him to give; and Kawhi Leonard, who’ll get a big, probably max extension as well.

Either way, this leaves a lot of money on the table for the Spurs to use and go after a big-name free agent, even if it’s not their way. Ever since Jason Kidd more than a decade ago, Popovich hasn’t had the opportunity or the desire to try and sign a big name. The Spurs worked so well over the years, championship or not, because they followed a certain pattern, and it had nothing to do with stars coming from the outside.

But Gasol isn’t the kind of player that takes over and tries to make it ‘his’ team. Not his personality, and he’s not dominant enough offensively. But he’s a huge addition on both ends of the floor, solving a lot of problems the Spurs might have. LaMarcus Aldridge and even, maybe, Kevin Love, can be considered, but Gasol is probably the best in that group, and the one who’ll fit in the best with what the Spurs have going; not just because he’s European.

Still, the Grizzlies seem like the best offer for him to consider. And yet strange things have happened, and although it is unlikely, we might see Marc Gasol playing for a different team next year.

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