Los Angeles Lakers veteran and four-time All-Star Pau Gasol will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, making him one of the most sought-after players available to sign. The Barcelona native has been on the Lakers roster since 2008, clinching two NBA titles while forming a one-two punch with Kobe Bryant.
Despite Gasol’s success at the Staples Center, his future with the Lakers looks bleak after finishing 27-55 and winding up in last place of the Pacific Division. A lack of team chemistry, plus the resignation of head coach Mike D’Antoni, makes it easy to believe that Gasol will try to pursue other opportunities to win a championship with another franchise as he approaches the latter half of his career.
Gasol told Chris Mannix of SI.com that his top priority is to play for a team that can win a championship. Mannix also had a poll of NBA executives all agreeing that the Chicago Bulls could be a potential destination for Gasol.
“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”
There’s no doubt that Gasol isn’t the same player he was back in 2009-10 during the Lakers’ championship runs. Whoever signs him will be adding a veteran in decline, which showed in 2012-13 where Gasol only played in 49 games because of multiple injuries. This season, despite missing a good amount of time, Gasol managed to bump up his per game averages on all major categories from the previous year, which included points, rebounds and blocks.
He also said the Chicago Bulls, with the return of Derrick Rose and the possible addition of fellow Spaniard Nikola Mirotic, could be an interesting team.
Are the Bulls a clear-cut favorite to land Gasol? Yes, but at the same time, no. This is because of their salary cap issues and the list of other franchises that wish to obtain Gasol’s services for next season.
Coming to Chicago would give Gasol a better opportunity to hoist his third Larry O’Brien Trophy, compared to if he re-signed with the Lakers. Regardless of the fact that L.A. currently holds the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft and is also expecting to have Kobe Bryant back next season, the Lakers are years away from having a realistic possibility in winning their 17th NBA title.
The Bulls would not only be signing a former All-Star to play alongside Derrick Rose, they would also be adding someone that can be a solid contributor to the frontcourt. Gasol finished last season by averaging 8.6 rebounds per game, including 7.6 rebounds defensively.
The amount of competition that Chicago could see during the Gasol sweepstakes may be too much for them to handle. Mannix also wrote that the Charlotte Bobcats and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the running for Gasol. The 7-foot, 250-pound big man also that Barragan that the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs are attractive landing spots. Gasol also concluded that he wants to play with the best, which includes LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Gasol earned $19 million during the final year of his contract with the Lakers. It’s certain that no one will look to sign Gasol for that amount of money; however, if the Bulls are forced to use a significant amount of their salary cap to sign Gasol, they may look to amnesty Carlos Boozer, who appears to be heading out of Chicago, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Despite general manager Gar Forman insisting that a decision to seek amnesty on the last season of Boozer’s contract ‘‘doesn’t have to be made until July,’’ sources indicated at the end of the Bulls’ season that a decision already had been made and that Boozer wouldn’t be returning.
Earning more than $15 million while sitting on the bench in place of Taj Gibson is enough for the Bulls to spend their money elsewhere on a player that can contribute even more for all four quarters. If Forman wants to look at other options to get rid of Boozer, a sign-and-trade with the Lakers is a possibility. As Jay Patt of SB Nation points out, if the Lakers agree to go this route, acquiring Boozer wouldn’t take a major hit to their salary cap and wouldn’t negatively affect their plans for next season.
Zach Libby covers the Chicago Bulls for HoopsHabit.