Contract: Restricted Free Agent
Marc Gasol had a surprising rookie year and showed Grizzlies fans that he was more than just a throw-in in the once infamous Pau Gasol-Lakers trade. Gasol made a mini-leap in in sophomore year, showing up in much better shape and averaging career highs in points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage. Gasols late season injury in 2010 derailed potential playoff talk as the Grizz finished 40-42.
Gasol regressed slightly this past season, averaging career lows in points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage. His overall totals were still respectable as he shot better than 50% from the floor and put up about 12 and 7 per night. A modest regular season. But Gasol turned it on in the playoffs. You know, just like his brother, except the opposite. In 13 games, Marc played about 40 minutes a night and put up 15 and 11. Hell end up averaging the second most rebounds per game in the playoffs behind Dwight Howard. Not too shabby considering his teammate, Zach Randolph, averaged 10.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Gasols playoff performance proved what enlightened Grizzlies fans already knewhes a game changing player that makes an impact in ways that dont always show up in the box score. Hes a willing and able passer, especially for his size. Hes an adequate defender and can be counted on to take on the opposing teams best big (see Duncan, Tim). And more importantly, hes the perfect match with Zach Randolph, forming an old school twin tower lineup that cause nightmare problems for most teams in the league that have transitioned to smaller frontcourts.
The Grizzlies number 1 and 2 offseason priorities had to be signing Randolph and Gasol. Randolph was taken care of as the playoffs started and the focus now shifts to Gasol. With a resigned Gasol and a healthy Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies are a legit power in the West. Without Gasol, theyre a first-round playoff loser at best.
Long Term Plans
Gasol is an integral component not only because of what he brings to the table, but also because of the dearth of legitimate big men in the league. Projecting salaries is always a tricky notion, but especially so this offseason given the NBA will be operating under a new CBA. Gasol should command a contract somewhere between Kendrick Perkins ($8 million a year) and Andrew Bynum ($13 million a year). I suspect that a team will make an offer to Gasol thats larger than what the Grizz want to pay, but I cant envision them not matching. I just cant. I dont even want to talk about it. The Grizz have already committed long term money to Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley. At this point, you have to go ahead and do the same with Gasol and then fill out the rest of the roster with draft picks on rookie contracts (OJ Mayo, Darrell Arthur, Sam Young, Greivis Vasquez, Xavier Henry) and low priced veteran role players (Tony Allen, Hamed Haddadi). If for some reason the Grizzlies didnt resign Gasol, theyd have to fill the center position with a lower priced free agent (Jeff Foster, Samuel Dalembert, etc.) Like I said, I dont even want to envision that option. Im not a proponent of trading Rudy Gay, but if the Grizzlies organization decides they cant afford Gasol, Id sooner pay him and trade Gay. Its always easier to find a wing player than a center. The Grizzlies showed that the past 2 years already. When Gasol went down at the end of the 2010 season, there wasnt a viable replacement (those are the kindest words you will ever hear me say about Hasheem Thabeet. He wasnt a viable replacement.) When Gay got injured this year, there was a plethora of serviceable options to choose from. Id prefer to have both Gasol and Gay in the long term plans, but if I can only have one, give me Marc.