One of the most coveted free agents heading into next season will be Pau Gasol, who’ll test the market after close to six seasons and two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. But this isn’t a free for all buffet: He has his preferences, which means very few teams can consider them contenders for his services. Staying with the Lakers is an option, but so is joining the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies.
Don’t be surprised to see more names on the list when it becomes a bit more clearer if what the price Gasol is asking for. Coming off a season in which he averaged 17.4 points per game in a system that isn’t for him on a very bad Lakers team, he’s clearly good enough to be a substantial part of any team in the NBA, but it remains to be seen just how much of a pay cut he is willing to take after making $19 million a season over the last three years.
One might think that Gasol, who has made $175 million in salary since becoming an NBA player in 2002, wouldn’t mind taking a significant pay cut to make him affordable for the top teams in the league; he has no intention of playing for a team that’s not going to be in contention for the NBA title. As we all know, when the season begins there are quite a few teams that see themselves worthy of that description.
But let us stick to teams Gasol mentioned during his interview to Marca. The San Antonio Spurs actually have quite a lot of cap space ($53 million on the payroll) next season as of now. Don’t be surprised if Tim Duncan, who has a player option worth $10 million for the 2014-2015 season, opts out to take less money and help the team. I’m not sure the NBA will be too happy about it, but we still haven’t seen them interfere with someone taking a pay cut, even though it hurts competitiveness in the eyes of the league. Adding Gasol might mean trying to trade away Splitter, but the Spurs do need another frontcourt player as Boris Diaw is finishing his contract and might not becoming back.
The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t a serious option unless Zach Randolph opts out of his deal. If that happens, we will have us the Gasol brothers crowding the frontcourt for a team that went out in the first round of the playoffs but are much better than a 7th or 8th seed, suffering from injuries that derailed their regular season effort until Gasol got back from his.
The Chicago Bulls are about defense, but they’re also about winning and now. Carlos Boozer is likely to finally get amnestied which means plenty of money getting freed up. It might help them sign Pau Gasol, but the Bulls might also make a move for Carmelo Anthony. Who knows – Gasol might end up re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, but in truth both he and the team itself don’t seem to be that interested in each other anymore.