Now that LeBron James has chosen to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA’s offseason dominoes will begin to fall quickly. Carmelo Anthony should make a final decision soon, Chris Bosh will return to the Miami Heat and Kevin Love may finally be traded.
One free agent that has fallen below the radar is Pau Gasol, who made news on Friday with a report from Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he has declined a two-year offer worth more than $10 million per year from the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol has of course spent the last six-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers, but he is apparently ready to move on as his career winds down.
Gasol has made it clear he wants to play for a title contender, and his top suitors to this point have been the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. So he is clearly still held in high regard around the league at age 34, and he averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season after averaging a career-low 13.7 points per game over just 49 games in 2012-13.
With all due respect to Anthony, I think Gasol is the biggest difference maker left on the free agent market. The caliber and relative quantity of teams that have had any level of reported interest in him reflects that, whereas only a few teams have been mentioned as serious suitors for Anthony since he may want to continue playing in a big market on another big contract.
The Lakers clearly wanted Gasol back, and his refusal of their offer means money is unlikely to be the primary reason he signs with a team. With over $156.5 million in career salary (per Basketball Reference.com) that could be expected, and we won’t have to wait long to know where he’ll land since Gasol posted on his Twitter account Friday afternoon that he is close to a decision.