When the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season ended earlier the organization wished in a Western Conference Finals defeat to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, you knew the team was going to look to add another piece to help the franchise not suffer another disappointing playoff performance. The guy the Thunder have been targeting is two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol.
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks met with coveted free agent Pau Gasol in Southern California on Monday, multiple league sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com, but the team quietly considers it a “long shot” to acquire him.
-Dave McMenamin, ESPN
Yes, you read the end of that correctly. Gasol is a long shot at this point.
He is a long shot because the Thunder have about $5 million to spend while staying under the luxury tax. At 34 years old and nearing the end of his career, it is hard to imagine Gasol taking a significant pay cut to play in Oklahoma City when he would be looking at bigger deals in Los Angeles and New York, the other two contenders for Gasol.
The Thunder have been adamant about not paying the tax and I don’t think an aging big man is going to change that.
Secondly, Gasol has prior relations with both the Lakers and Knicks. He has played seven seasons in L.A. and his connection with New York is strong because of newly hired president Phil Jackson, who coached both championship teams Gasol was a part of.
He also expressed his concern to Brooks about living in a city like Oklahoma City that is not as culturally diverse as Los Angeles.
While it may be a long shot, the Thunder should and will continue to pursue the Spaniard. Gasol would be a very nice fit for the Thunder.
At this point in his career, Gasol must be paired with a rim protector on the defensive end and the Thunder have one of the best in the league in Serge Ibaka. So while Gasol has regressed as a defender in the latter stages of his career, that is not a huge concern if he were to join the Thunder.
Offensively, Gasol could fit on basically any team. His unique ability to find open teammates and keep the fluidity of an offense constant from either the post, high post, or a pick and roll setting would add another dynamic option to the Thunder’s already explosive offense.
The Thunder are often frustrating to watch because of how stagnant the offense can become, but the addition of Gasol could eliminate a lot of that iso play the Thunder often rely on too much.
However, the addition of Gasol would have to come with changes from Scott Brooks. Brooks would have to find ways to use Gasol offensively to exploit defenses.
If he can, that would make the Thunder much less predictable and would take a huge burden off MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Gasol’s offensive brilliance could add a whole new wrinkle to an already very good team.
Many people think Gasol is old and washed up. And while I agree he does not move as well as he once did, he still averaged 17.4 points per game along with 9.7 rebounds per game in a system where he made it no secret he was not happy with.
I think a new environment could bring a step back into his play. If Gasol is your fourth best player (he would be on the Thunder with Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka), you are in decent shape.
In the end Gasol will most likely not end up on the Thunder, but if he did, you would have to believe the Thunder would be one of the favorites to win the NBA title heading into next season.