NBA: Pau Gasol the Answer for OKC?
As the (NBA) world comes to a stop waiting on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to make their free agent decisions, one of the only teams not in pursuit of those big fish is after a seven foot fish of their own. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been in talks with Center/Forward Pau Gasol and for good reason.
As Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have come into their own over the last few years, management has not been able to put together a cast that could once more send them to the NBA Finals and play for a championship. One could argue the Thunder have been counterproductive since 2011 as they shipped out James Harden immediately following and have done a poor job in replacing his production since.
Now may be the time for them to act though. They have a few players apart from the two stars who could be pieces for a title-winning team.
Reggie Jackson held his own when Westbrook was out with injuries and continues to mature as a player alongside Jeremy Lamb. Steven Adams, going into his second year, is capable of giving solid, high energy minutes off the bench. Gasol’s teammate on the Spanish National team, Serge Ibaka has a great all-around offensive game, while being the team’s defensive anchor.
Bringing in Gasol would allow the team to alleviate themselves of the Kendrick Perkins dilemma. Although a great teammate, Perkins’s skills have diminished on the court. The Spaniard would be able to step into his minutes and be an immediate upgrade, especially in late game situations.
Pau is coming off a season in which he averaged 17 pts and 7 rebs, while in a terrible coaching system not built for men of his skillset. Such a skillset entails a low post repertoire of moves, ability to crash the offensive boards, court vision and a dependable veteran with championship experience. His length gives him an advantage over most and even when doubled in the post, would be able to make the pass out over defenders or finish over them.
Many, if not all of the Thunder’s late game possessions over the years have involved standing around and watching Durant dribble down the clock. While he may be a tremendous player, Durant may not be able to deliver every single time down the court in such a way. An off shooting night may occur and teams have taken to doubling up on him as soon as he crosses halfcourt, denying him the ball. This leads to ridiculous play by the rest of the team and often terrible Westbrook shots.
If Gasol were brought into the fold, this would hardly be the case. Coach Scott Brooks could trot out a lineup of Westbrook, Jackson, Durant, Ibaka and Gasol for the end of games.
Gasol’s ability to play in the pick’n’roll either with Jackson, Westbrook or Durant would allow for players to either spot up or slash to the rim. The ballhandler would either pass to the slasher or to Gasol who would make the decision to attack the rim, shoot from midrange or pass to the slasher himself. All three are options Gasol brings to the table with his talents.
He’s shown he can play second fiddle to a superstar and at this stage in his career, he’d be a viable fourth or even fifth option. Gasol would easily be better than any fourth or fifth options on other teams and given his team first attitude, might not be against coming off the bench and leading that unit.
The Thunder have not brought in talent such as Gasol during the Durant era, yet remain one of the top contenders in a stacked Western Conference. Teams like themselves are always said to need that one piece to take them over the top and Pau Gasol just might be that last piece, like he was six years ago. Oklahoma City might be a tough sell to Gasol because he might be waiting on Carmelo, but the shot at signing him is still there with the cornerstones the franchise have in Durant and Westbrook, ready to have Gasol win ring number three alongside them.