When this season is over, Pau Gasol is probably going to look for a new team and championship contender to play with. There’s still time, but teams are already showing interest, with the Chicago Bulls leading a list of contenders for his services which also includes the Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There’s a big debate about Gasol and whether or not he’s gone through a huge decline or simply someone who is suffering from the consequences of playing on a team that’s been through a lot of problems the last couple of seasons, not to mention an offensive system that doesn’t really compliment his talents, and a head coach that’s not his biggest fan.
Gasol has said that he wants to be playing for a team that’s going to win a championship. Money and the length of the contract are factors in his decision obviously, but not the most important thing and he is willing to make compromises on both if it means playing for a title contender right away, or a team that becomes one if he joins them.
Remember – the assumptions when Steve Nash was looking for a team in the summer of 2012 was that he’ll go where a championship seems like the most viable option. Instead, he chose the Lakers because they were able and willing to offer him just under $10 million a season, so don’t be surprised if Gasol eventually goes to the highest bidder, not the best team. Compromising has its limits as well.
Gasol is averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds this season, similar to his numbers from the 2011-2012 season when he shared the frontcourt with Andrew Bynum. His defense has declined and he seems softer in lack of a better word, but as we mentioned before, a lot of it might have to do with him simply being unhappy with where he is. His link with Kobe Bryant might be strong after going to three NBA finals together and winning two championships, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot more coming from that tap.
The Chicago Bulls are the biggest and best name out of the preliminary options, but they’ll be able to add Gasol only if they amnesty Carlos Boozer. There’s the mid-level exception option, but that’s a bit low in terms of money for Gasol. The Bobcats can offer him big money and while not being a title contender, there’s no doubt they’re a team on the rise. On the other hand, a combo of him an Al Jefferson on the same team might sound like it’s asking for trouble in terms of offensive fluidity.
The dream situation for him might be playing next to his brother, Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies are good, but championship material? Probably not. The Cavs are a complete mess, and it’s better to try and see what happens with their Kyrie Irving situation. Mind you, him staying with a big extension doesn’t mean they’ll actually be set for a long time, considering they usually play better without him.
The question will be whether or not Pau Gasol is still an All-Star caliber player in the right system, and is he worth All-Star money. The East needs talent, even if it’s aging. Gasol wants a championship, and from the current list of contenders, the Chicago Bulls are the best option.