Pau Gasol will turn 36-years-old in a week, but the big Spaniard still put up 46 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on a Bulls team in disarray last season. The six-time NBA All-Star may not be as good as he was during his two NBA Championship runs with the Lakers, however, he is still one of the better power forwards in the NBA and could be the bridge the Raptors need to maintain last year’s winning pace while their young big men get up to speed.
Toronto doesn’t have the salary cap space to wow the veteran big man and they might not need it. Gasol, like Luis Scola last year, wants more than just money. He wants to win and he wants an important role on a team where he can be successful.
In an interview with Marca.com after the season ended, Gasol talked about his goals in free agency (google translate),
I have to see what offers I get. I try to keep an open mind not condition my decision. The good news is that this summer the conditions that can offer can be very attractive and there will be many teams that are going to propose interesting projects. It’s a matter of seeing what the conditions are. I would be in a position where he can win, fits well in the team, be happy, enjoy playing.
I would like two things: go to a team competing for the ring and with a good contract. At some point you may have to prioritize one thing or another, so read as to have an open mind, to value all without being conditioned.
As much as Gasol wasn’t about to dismiss re-signing with the Bulls, he knows that organization is a long ways from contending. As is often the case, the best contract opportunities will come from unproven or flat out rebuilding teams and the best opportunities to contend for an NBA Championship will come with much less money.
Patrick Patterson showed he can start if needed for Toronto, but this team was so much better with this mobile ‘3-and-D’ power forward coming off the bench. They need a starter at that position and Gasol would slide into that spot very smoothly.
Gasol will undoubtedly look at the Spurs and Grizzlies as potential landing spots and the Pacers have improved and depending on what the HEAT can do elsewhere in free agency, they could look good next year, but the 56-win Raptors went to the Eastern Conference Finals this year and with Gasol on the roster and DeRozan virtually certain to re-sign, they should be the early favorites to get back there to challenge the Cavaliers again.
Gasol was only making $7.5 million a season with the Bulls, but he signed the bargain contract because he thought it gave him a shot at a ring. This time it’s likely he’ll have to take even less to get a chance to go deep in the playoffs, however, in Toronto at least he’d have an important role on a proven team.
It’s worth noting Gasol has already made over $170 million in his NBA career.