San Antonio Spurs To Add Pau Gasol

Nov 25, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16) before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16) before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Can Pau Gasol help the San Antonio Spurs to make one more run at the title?

With the news of Kevin Durant agreeing to a contract with the Golden State Warriors, many people are already handing the 2016-17 title to the Warriors … and certainly with good reason.

The Warriors will possess a lineup capable of offensive fireworks the league has never seen but don’t expect the San Antonio Spurs to just roll over and play dead.

With news of Tim Duncan’s potential retirement breaking on Monday, the Spurs have positioned themselves to remain as challengers out west by agreeing to terms with Pau Gasol. If there ever was a player born for the Spurs system it is Gasol.

Few big men in the league posses his combination of scoring ability with a deft ability to distribute the basketball to his teammates and an understanding of how to move offensively in cutting to the basket.

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Last season Gasol averaged 4.1 assists per game, the second-best mark of his career. When you add his 11 rebounds and two blocks per game to the mix you see why Gasol is such a rare and valuable asset.

Gasol’s value to the Spurs leaps well past the box score though. Perhaps his biggest asset to the Spurs offense will be allowing LaMarcus Aldridge to thrive in the paint.

Aldridge shot nearly 65 percent near the basket this season and Gasol’s ability to play out of the high post will allow Aldridge to play to his biggest strength.

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The Warriors landing Durant is the story of the summer for sure, but in perfect Spurs fashion grabbing Gasol seems to be met with little fanfare by comparison.

Perhaps it is because he’s in the twilight of his career, but Duncan has been putting up numbers through his 39th birthday and Gasol, especially with coach Gregg Popovich managing his minutes, can do the same.

Gasol posted a VORP of 3.5 last season, a box plus/minus of 4.0 and a defensive win shares of 3.9 — good for top 17 in all three of those categories.

Only eight other players matched that feat : Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Paul Millsap, Paul George and Al Horford — pretty good company.

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The tradeoff from Duncan to Gasol is not without its downside. Duncan anchored one of the stingiest defenses in the league last season and while Gasol racks up numbers in rebounds and blocked shots, his impact on the overall defense isn’t nearly what Duncan’s is.

But is there going to be a defense that can stop the Warriors?

The Warriors were not undone by a heroic defensive effort by the Cavaliers in the Finals. They met their demise because shots didn’t fall. The Warriors shot less than 34 percent from downtown in their four Finals losses.

If Curry, Klay Thompson and now Durant are hitting threes, neither Duncan nor Gasol will move the needle, but what Gasol offers on offense over what Duncan can at this point in his career would be a positive for the Spurs.

In the end, perhaps nobody will be able to stop the Warriors and the Spurs are simply playing for the right to be runner-up in the West, but adding Gasol to the duo of Leonard and Aldridge at least gives the Spurs a better chance than they had last year.

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After all injuries happen, nobody plays 48 minutes every game and there’s still only one ball … so the Warriors don’t have the title won just yet.