NBA free agency: Which team best suits Pau Gasol?

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol sits on the bench in the second half during an NBA basketball game. Gasol's future with the Lakers is uncertain as both parties entertain other possibilities amid NBA free agency. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News file)

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol sits on the bench in the second half during an NBA basketball game. Gasol’s future with the Lakers is uncertain as both parties entertain other possibilities amid NBA free agency. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News file)

In this time of heightened stress and uncertainty, Pau Gasol has attempted to clear his mind. As shared by his Twitter account, the Lakers forward shared that he has listened to classical music including Chopin’s greatest hits to help him relax. Gasol has enjoyed the ocean breezes along Redondo Beach. He has become both appreciative of his blessings and curious about his future.

Another instance of Gasol trying to stay level headed amid trade rumors? Hardly. Gasol has become a coveted man ever since becoming an unrestricted free agent last week, leaving him both humbled and cautious on how he should proceed.

“The process continues,” Gasol tweeted recently. “Intense days with a lot to think about & consider.”

As Gasol suggested, these options do not yield any simple answers. Below is a look at all those variables that has prompted Gasol to dive into deep reflection.

Team: Lakers

Pros: Even amid the endless trade discussions and reduced roles, Gasol stayed adamant about staying here. He held affection for Kobe Bryant’s skillset, his complementary chemistry and strong support. Gasol values the Lakers’ franchise for their championship history. And he loves living in Los Angeles because of its diversity, proximity to the beach and philanthropic opportunities that included Children’s Hospital.

A continued partnership would yield more benefits. If the Lakers can net either LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony, Gasol’s added presence would immediately put the Lakers back into NBA championship contention. Although he will not make the $19.3 million he made last season, the Lakers could offer him the most money especially if it is on a one-year deal.

Cons: Too many question marks linger that cast doubt whether the Lakers can quickly rebound from their worst season in L.A. franchise history. Can Bryant and Steve Nash stay healthy? Will the Lakers even attract James and/or Anthony? How much will the Lakers spend to revamp their roster knowing they want to keep financial flexibility for future offseasons? Would Gasol want to go through yet another season filled with trade speculation?

Outlook: Gasol’s future with the Lakers likely hinges on whether James or Anthony come here. If either of those stars venture out west, Gasol will want to join in on the fun. If neither James nor Anthony seem sold on the Lakers, consider Gasol skeptical, too. The Lakers will likely have the same thought process. They would likely keep Gasol if they feel they can contend for a title next season. If not, the Lakers will likely go through a full rebuilding process to ensure financial flexibility moving forward.

Team: Miami Heat

Pros:Either scenario seems too enticing to pass up. Gasol could complement Chris Bosh inside, while forming a Fantastic Four along with James and Dwyane Wade. Or Gasol could become Bosh’s replacement and become a new member of Miami’s Big Three. Add in Josh McRoberts’ presence, and it appears Gasol would thrive as a versatile center while having defensive reinforcements. This lineup would also match Gasol’s hope toward joining a championship contending team.
Cons: Will the Big Three even stay intact? Even if Heat president Pat Riley ensures that happens, the courtship could become a lengthy process. That would leave Gasol perhaps conflicted about waiting, knowing he has fielded offers from other teams equipped to win an NBA title as well.
Outlook: Gasol’s future here would surely hinge on James staying there and in the manner in which the Heat receives clarity on its roster.

Team: San Antonio Spurs

Pros: So much about the Spurs’ culture fits right into what makes Gasol tick. He thrives on team play. He will appreciate the minimal drama within the organization. Gasol will have a coach in Gregg Popovich who would best tap into his versatile skillset and convince him to buy into a possible new role. Gasol and Tim Duncan could form another version of the “Twin Towers” that Duncan once perfected with David Robinson. Lastly, Popovich would know how to limit playing time so the 34-year-old Gasol stays fresh.

Cons: Amid his frustration with Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced system, Gasol may not like playing the Spurs hybrid version of D’Antoni’s offense that features Duncan as a facilitator to accommodate the team’s bountiful supply of outside shooters. It appears unlikely the Spurs could give Gasol a competitive salary, either.

Outlook: The many positives vastly outweigh the slight negatives. But Gasol can be picky considering he has plenty of suitors.

Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

Pros: Gasol could become the missing link to a young, developing team that has struggled busting open the championship window. Gasol would provide much more offensive versatility than a plodding Kendrick Perkins. Gasol’s finesse play would complement the defensive intensity from Serge Ibaka, who has teamed with Gasol on the Spanish national team. The offensively prolific play from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would both give Gasol more open looks and make the Thunder one unstoppable team.

Cons: The Thunder only has a mid-level exception at its disposal worth $5.3 million. That would mark a drastic pay cut Gasol would have to take, making it likely the Thunder would need to perform a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. That could be easier said than done since the Lakers want to minimize having multi-year contracts. The Thunder’s blistering fast pace could also overwhelm Gasol, who prefers playing a methodical offense that puts premium on post play.

Outlook: Complications arise in this scenario because of salary cap issues. But the Thunder has a roster best currently constructed to help Gasol win his third NBA championship.

Team: Chicago Bulls

Pros: Gasol would go to a less competitive Eastern Conference that would feature an elite point guard (Derrick Rose), a hustling center (Joakim Noah) and a defensive savvy coach (Tom Thibodeau). Because of those reinforcements, Gasol would thrive as both a post player and facilitator pretty easily.

Cons: Gasol would likely tire of Thibodeau’s grinding style and may not be suited conditioning wise to meet those demands. Gasol prefers trying to pace himself through the season and maximizing recovery time and rest to ensure he stays physically and mentally fresh. Doubts also persist on Rose’s health. The Bulls would likely only be able to pull this move on a sign-and-trade.

Outlook: The Bulls and Gasol would benefit from this partnership. But Gasol has better options.

Team: Dallas Mavericks

Pros: It seems hard to imagine a more dangerous offensive duo than Gasol teaming up with European counterpart Dirk Nowitzki. Both display offensively versatile games, including Nowitzki’s dependable stepback jumper and Gasol’s fundamentally sound post play. Their unselfishness and versatility should also complement each other well, particularly with point guard Monta Ellis and solid defender in Tyson Chandler providing the Mavericks depth.

Cons: It seems complicated how Gasol would fit into that lineup considering Chandler and Nowitzki are in that lineup. Either Gasol or Nowitzki could switch positions, but that could diminish their effectiveness. Even if Anthony skips on Dallas, it appears the Mavericks do not have much cap space to offer Gasol.

Outlook: This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad fit. But the Mavericks are not the best option both from a competitive and financial standpoint.

Team: Golden State Warriors

Pros: The Warriors and Lakers are fundamentally different teams, but Gasol would experience a seamless transition. Gasol would likely have a solid partnership with Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who has a close relationship with Phil Jackson from playing with him in Chicago and could pass along some of his concepts. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would also offer plenty of outside shooting, leaving Gasol with open space to work inside. This young group would also value Gasol’s leadership and experience stemmed from winning two NBA championships with the Lakers. It also helps Gasol would not have to move far to join his new team.

Cons: The Warriors could only acquire Gasol by using their $9.7 million trade exception and orchestrating a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. The Warriors are also not as playoff ready as other contenders, such as Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

Outlook: Barring Golden State giving up Thompson (which the Warriors would not do), it seems unlikely the Lakers would accept a sign-and-trade with a Pacific division rival. That makes this scenario appear nothing more than a pipedream.

Team: New York Knicks

Pros: The partnership arises through different circumstances. But Gasol would work in a comfortable environment under Jackson, Knicks coach Derek Fisher and assistant coach Kurt Rambis, all of whom enjoyed positive relationships with Gasol on the Lakers. It also seems likely the Knicks would then feature Gasol where he feels comfortable, running a methodical offense that features him in the post.

Cons: Saddled by bad contracts, the Knicks could only offer up to $3 million for Gasol to play there next season. Questions also remain on how long the rebuilding process will take place. Or whether the strong leadership skills Jackson and Fisher have displayed as a former coach and player will carry over into their new role.

Outlook: Gasol would like playing in New York, so long as he has the patience and trust in the Knicks’ rebuilding plan. But that would compromise Gasol’s chance to win another NBA championship quickly.


NBA free agency: Which team best suits Carmelo Anthony?

NBA free agency: Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol mulling options

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at

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