Pau Gasol quietly had a very productive season with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite missing more than 20 games. As the main offensive weapon, he was able to remain versatile despite not fitting in with what Mike D’Antoni wanted out of his big men. However, it is best for both the team and Gasol as a player that they part ways in the offseason.
Gasol still has a lot left in his career, and has built a strong bond with Kobe Bryant, but over the past couple of years, it is obvious that he is on the decline, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
While Gasol has never been known as a defensive presence, he was always dependable on that side of the court. He was able to keep up with most big men and provide slight rim protection. Now, he is unable to guard the pick and roll effectively, and opposing players often finish with ease against him. Since the team also has Bryant and possibly Steve Nash, it should be a priority to find an active big man who can cover the defensive mistakes of these two players.
Gasol is also too expensive for the Lakers to keep. There are plenty of teams who can use his skill set on offense, as well as hide his deficiencies on defense. A contending team will be able to shell out more money than the Lakers and give Gasol more stability as he closes out his career. The Lakers will need as much flexibility as possible for next year, as they attempt to fill out their roster.
The biggest reason for not re-signing Gasol may be that the team just needs to go a different direction. Gasol has been subject to numerous trade rumors, and has received less credit than he deserves. He has been a great teammate and professional, but the Lakers need to inject some new blood into their lineup. It wouldn’t hurt to try and find another star to pair with Bryant.
Gasol has given a lot to the Lakers’ organization, and was a main act in their championship runs. If he is willing to take a huge pay cut, then he may warrant a chance to finish his career in Los Angeles. Otherwise, the Lakers should look elsewhere in free agency.