“Get me Pau Gasol’s agent!”
That’s what I was thinking when I initially heard the news of Gasol re-signing with the Spurs for $32 million guaranteed over the next two years with a partial guarantee for a third year.
Gasol just turned 37 and the Spurs won more in the regular season with Gasol coming off the bench (30-9) than they did when he was starting at the beginning of the season (18-8).
When he opted out of the contract that would’ve paid him $16 million in the last year of his deal this offseason, it came as a shock. He was going to help the Spurs clear cap money to go out and sign free agents.
The Spurs were able to make the moves they wanted. They let Jonathon Simmons, Dewayne Dedmon, and David Lee go while re-signing Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili and bringing on Rudy Gay, Brandon Paul, and Joffrey Lauvergne.
But what was particularly surprising was the terms of Pau’s new deal. Based on Pau opting out and the Spurs being given more cap space to work with, the conventional wisdom was that he’d sign for slightly more guaranteed money, just spread out over a couple of years. Like $20 million over two years with a team option for a third year or the partially guaranteed third year that the Spurs gave him with this new deal.
This would allow the Spurs go out and get another true center and possibly one that the Spurs could start or rely on to bang with the best big men in the Western Conference and possibly in the playoffs. Someone that could play for 30 minutes and allow the Spurs to now have to rely on playing small ball when they don’t want to.
While many don’t believe that Pau has earned the money, his lack of flashiness on either end of the court shouldn’t hide the fact that he played well during the regular season and especially in the playoffs last year.
While Dewayne Dedmon had a higher total rebound percentage, Pau was still second on the team and was a much better passer as a big man. His assist percentage was highest on the team among big men while he had one of the lowest turnover percentages on the team as well.
His win shares per 48 minutes were also second-highest on the team only to Kawhi Leonard although Dedmon was right behind him in that category. What’s incredibly impressive, though, is that his box plus-minus was second on the Spurs to Kawhi as well as his Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).
His VORP and box plus-minus numbers held in the playoffs as well.
The fact is that Pau Gasol is an integral part of what the Spurs do. And in an era of small ball and motion offenses, reliable true centers are hard to come by, especially those with the unique skill set that Gasol brings to the table.
While some may worry that the Spurs won’t have the size when it comes to some of the bigger teams in the Western Conference, frankly, there aren’t that many of them. And the teams at the top that the Spurs have to worry about aren’t imposing their will with big men.
And one of the underrated parts of the new Spurs front court is Rudy Gay.
While most think of Gay as a hybrid scorer, he’s a very different player than the one that made a name for himself in Memphis at the beginning of his career. Namely, his defense and rebounding numbers have improved steadily over the course of his career.
So for all those worried that the Spurs might have paid Pau Gasol too much or that they’re in bad shape if they run into a team that relies on their bigs in the playoffs, the Spurs will be just fine.