After one of the best 12 months of his career, Spaniard Marc Gasol can take a few different angles heading into this upcoming NBA season.
In early February 2019, Marc Gasol was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors. He left the team he had spent his entire career with and had featured multiple deep playoff runs, one Defensive Player of the Year award, three All-Star selections and about three different hairstyles.
But since changing postcodes seven months ago, the Spaniard has started for an NBA Champion and lead his national team in a FIBA World Cup victory.
What may be even scarier for the league is that he might not be done.
Gasol is owed around $25 million this upcoming season that will expire at the end of the season. He may be aging but he has proven he can still add value to a team in need of a defensive big man.
Oh, and would you look at that, it looks like there might be a few title contenders in need of a defensive big man almost exactly like Toronto did last season. But where may he end up and how would he get there?
As he is owed quite a bit it may be hard to move his contract and agreeing on a buyout without leaving too much money on the table probably isn’t going to happen.
It should be stated though that the Raptors found a way to trade for him without giving up too much present value. They went on to win the title, after all, it couldn’t have been too much value.
But who would need him and be willing to make moves for him?
As much discussed on The Deep Two NBA Podcast: I don’t think Enes Kanter will cut it as a starting centre this season. He hasn’t in previous seasons and while he may score a solid 20 points on any given night, he’ll give up more than that on the other end.
When Kanter was on the court in Portland, the Blazers scored 7.9 fewer points per possession per Cleaning the Glass, good for the tenth percentile in the league. On the other end of the court he was surprisingly passable, only conceding 0.1 more points per possession.
If Boston wants to be better than last season and have any hopes at hanging with the East’s elite, they’ll have to be more than passable at a crucial position.
That’s where Gasol steps in.
As a premier defensive talent, even entering his age 35 season, Gasol could step right into the Celtic green and not need the ball in his hands.
Something the Celtics will be keen to do this season is beat a division rival in Philadelphia and enigmatic offensive fulcrum Joel Embiid.
If these last playoffs were anything to go by, Gasol is the kryptonite to Embiid. The “most unstoppable player in the league” who averaged 27.5 points per game on 18.7 attempts in 34 minutes dropped to 17.6 points, on 37 percent from the floor in near-identical minutes.
The only difference being the stalwart Spaniard there irritating him.
For any trade to work, it’d have to be centred around Gordon Hayward for Norm Powell and Gasol with a few other moving parts.
Boston does it as the perpetually two-year Hayward injury just doesn’t align with the Celtics’ championship window and they will be getting Powell back who could slide into some wing minutes.
An even greater incentive to doing this trade is it removes the feeling of guilt around Boston that they have to try and make Hayward work ever since his injury.
Stop trying to make fetch happen.
They could then freely play Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at either the two and the three or three and four much more. This also helps the team see what they have in Brown who’s coming up to one of the trickier rookie extensions.
Toronto gets a look at another potential star wing who, if he pops (note the very large if), could slide into a championship-ready roster and make Masai Ujiri look like the second coming of Steven Hawking… again.
Just for an added wrinkle that nobody asked for: Charlotte tried to trade for Marc Gasol at the deadline before the deal fell through and he ended up in Canada. The idea of a Gasol-Kemba Walker pick-and-roll must’ve made Kemba a little excited right?
Los Angeles Clippers
A trade constructed as Gasol for Mo Harkless, Ivica Zubac, Rodney McGruder and the Clippers own 2020 first-rounder works after January 15th.
I’m surprised this actually works to be completely honest, I didn’t think there would be enough matching salary from the Clippers end.
I put them down because, while I love Montrezl Harrell, I think his future on a championship team is as a sixth-man/ energy big off the bench which is simply because of his defensive shortcomings (another conversation for another time).
If this particular trade is made, the big man rotation for LA may be one of the best in league; the versatility to throw out a DPoY in Gasol or a fast, rim-running finisher in Harrell off the bench or even try something a little funky with Mfiondu Kabengele.
Especially after his success against Embiid in the playoffs, Gasol may be needed against another conference rival in the Lakers and we’ll see throughout the season how well he plays against Anthony Davis.
I think Michael Winger and all the Clippers head office will be paying very close attention to the Raptors/ Lakers matchup on 10 November 2019 as it’ll be a perfect measuring stick for Gasol’s abilities against what may be their biggest competitor.
Side note: if the Raptors are adamant they want to keep Gasol, probably “load manage” his minutes on that night.
I think if Gasol is on the move, other teams can field a more competitive offer than a few contracts and a late first-round pick. However, if there isn’t a desire for him outside of the Clippers, he may just end up there.
The biggest wrench that could get in the way of all these plans was said aptly by Nate Duncan of the Dunc’d On NBA Podcast: “ironically the better he plays with Toronto it’s almost like the less likely he is to get moved.”
“They’ll actually be good enough to actually just go into the playoffs. If he does, they may just see what they have in him and, you know, maybe he really likes it there too. He could just end up resigning… [Toronto are] in flux at the moment.”
If the Raptors aren’t good or don’t look like they’ll make the playoffs (unlikely), they can look over their options. If they are in the playoff chase, there’s no major benefit in selling all their pieces, they’re not bad enough to truly bottom out.
There may be a couple of surprise teams that need his services like Miami or Dallas, I’ve only delved into the Clippers and Celtics as I think they can field the best offers.
If I’m Toronto and I see at least a first-round pick involved in trade discussions for a player who doesn’t have a long-term future on this roster and entering his age-35 season; I jump on it. It’ll all depend on how much they want to win in this season and how much future salary they’re willing to take on.