The Lakers are reloading. The defending champs made another splashy signing on Sunday, agreeing to a deal with center Marc Gasol, according to multiple reports. ESPN was first, and also reports the deal will be for two seasons.
Gasol, 35, spent the last season and a half in Toronto, winning a championship in 2019. For 2020, he averaged 7.5 points in 26.4 minutes per game, shooting 38.5% from three. Los Angeles traded JaVale McGee to make room for Gasol, which means both of the centers from the Lakers’ Finals run—McGee and Dwight Howard—have been replaced. Gasol will join Montrezl Harrell in L.A.’s new center rotation. Let’s grade the deal.
Another move I really love. Having a rim-running, athletic center is not really a necessity when you have a destroyer like Anthony Davis on the team. Gasol will fit in nicely if he takes McGee’s role in the starting lineup, adding space to the offense, playing smart team defense, and serving as a skilled post defender against someone like Nikola Jokic. I especially like the fit offensively. The Lakers’ offense could get a little tight in the halfcourt when either McGee or Howard were on the floor. Gasol, while not a big shot-blocking threat, doesn’t compromise the defense and he should give LeBron and AD much more room to operate. (Gasol’s shooting ability also allows him to play with Harrell in bench groups, or however Frank Vogel decides to stack the rotation.)
If there’s scrutiny here, it’s that Gasol struggled in the playoffs for Toronto when matched up with the smaller Celtics. But Vogel showed during the title run he is willing to be incredibly flexible in how he uses his centers. Harrell will be an option, as well going “center-less” and playing Davis at the five. Few expected Markieff Morris and Rajon Rondo to have the postseason success they had in the bubble—playing off LeBron and AD will make life much, much easier for anyone, let alone someone as accomplished as Gasol.
As far as the contract goes, a player of Gasol’s level playing for the veteran minimum is incredible value. And Gasol gets to play in the city his brother starred in a decade ago, as well as return to the franchise that actually drafted him in 2007. There are worse places for a vet to hunt for a ring than in Los Angeles as LeBron’s teammate, something contenders will have to deal with for the foreseeable future as they compete for the same free agents.