Pau Gasol: Rewarding Less

Pau Gasol is taking less money to stay in San Antonio. Gasol opted-out his deal in order to stay in Texas and why not? It is Gasol’s best chance at a third title, a hunt Gasol has been on since 2010. Gasol wants another ring before he retires. His is the gentleman version of ring chasing. It didn’t work out in Chicago with Tom Thibodeau who was fired after Gasol’s first year. It hasn’t worked out so far in San Antonio and the truth is he only won when paired with Kobe Bryant.

Now Gasol is an old player. The playoffs were an indictment on Gasol’s efficacy.  7.7 points. 43%. A defensive rating of 110. This is the Gasol as a shell of himself but then again he is taking the Vince Carter route. He gives the league what he has left in the tank. So don’t compare him to before.

At the end of this financial gymnastics, the Spurs hope to add more athletes but it’s not been a great Spurs offseason. Rudy Gay is the best the Spurs could come up with.

Line the math up. Kawhi Leonard is the Spurs future, and Tim Duncan was the Spurs past. Pau Gasol was hoping to add something to bridge between the two. He has more positives than negatives but at this stage, because of what he has done for the NBA and his national team in Spain, he can’t give more than 20 minutes and he definitely cannot run up and down in this D’Antoni-esque era. Gasol is still able to rebound, work out the post, occasionally finish with his right or left. He can’t really block shots anymore and is a presence in the paint because he still is  a seven footer, and most importantly, Gasol is a generous teammate. But for a team like the Spurs  Gasol is a question mark.

Can he keep up with the hyper-constructed offenses of the West?

Pau Gasol Regular Season Points Rebounds Rebound % Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
2016-17 (Spurs) 12.4 7.8 17.4% 116 102
Pau Gasol Playoffs Points Rebounds Rebound % Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
2016-17 (Spurs) 7.7 7.1 18.0% 110 110

Among centers last season, Gasol’s Defensive Plus-Minus rating was 28th. The Jazz Rudy Gobert was first. Centers who made more of a defensive impact than Gasol were Tarik Black and Nikola Vucevic, both on lottery teams.

Gasol’s offensive impact was consistent with his reputation and his game. He was ranked 10th among centers.

But how much does Gasol have left? In Chicago, he had back-to-back seasons of 70+ games which followed three seasons of 65 games, 49 games and 60 games. Gasol’s durability at the age of 37 is going to be an issue. Last season he played 64 games and a career low 25 minutes. In the playoffs, he was shot. He played 22 minutes and was consistently beaten down the floor and missed easy Gasol type shots.

On the Bulls, Gasol was the lone representative of NBA excellence, winner of two rings. But in San Antonio he isn’t the rare commodity he was in Chicago, he isn’t a nation by himself.

This past year, Gasol’s season was his least productive. He posted his lowest scoring average (12.4). His 1.7 offensive rebounds were the fewest of his career. His 20.2 PER was lowest in three years, when he was in Los Angeles.

Of course, the 2016-17 version of the Spurs were more nuanced than one man, one team.  The Spurs space the floor, shoot the ball, move the ball dynamic has changed the league from an inside-out style to an outside-in shooters bonanza, coupled with Pops tough love. It has Gasol looking more and more like a relic. He’s a big that plays that way.

Before he retired, Kobe Bryant was asked who was the best passer he played with and Bryant didn’t hesitate. He said Pau Gasol, partly because of his height and the ability to see over the top, his unselfishness, and his talent. Add to that, Gasol’s ability to finish with his left and right, his array of post moves, and being a seven footer in an increasingly small league. If Draymond Green can elevate the Warriors in assists from the forward position so could Pau Gasol, if he was ten years younger.

He is not. He is racing towards the finish line. He is not Tim Duncan, able to give and give and give, no matter his age. Pau Gasol is slowing down. The Spurs are making the best of it with this Pau Gasol bargain. His third year is partially guaranteed. The clock is ticking on Pau Gasol, NBA player.

photo via llananba