A day before free agency was set to begin, a potential big name already emerged as a possible Thunder target.
Reports from the L.A. Times indicate that Oklahoma City is among four teams Lakers center Pau Gasol, a two-time champion and four-time All-Star, will chat with in the near future.
“He will meet with Oklahoma City, Chicago and Golden State and might also sit down with the Lakers,” the L.A. Times article read.
This information leaked from Gasol’s camp and would seem to go in line with the big man’s wishes. As he enters the latter stages of his career, Gasol wants to be part of winning team and reportedly feels he can boost OKC’s title hopes. And in the past, the 33-year-old has been very complimentary of the Thunder, commending the organization and its passionate fanbase, while maintaining a friendship with Serge Ibaka, whom he has played with on the Spanish National Team.
But from the Thunder’s side of things, on both a financial and roster-building front, it’s a bit trickier.
Because of his injury issues and declining game, Gasol is expected to take a hefty pay cut from the $19 million he made last season. But still extremely skilled and highly respected, Gasol could likely still command near $10 million a year if he attacked his market value. Maybe he’d be willing to take less. But at this point, all the Thunder would have to offer is the $5.3 mid-level exception or a potential sign-and-trade – requiring some cooperation from the Lakers – that’s worth $6.6 million at most.
And that’s assuming there’s mutual interest from the Thunder, which hasn’t been confirmed at this point. ESPN’s Mark Stein reported late Monday night that it’s unlikely the Thunder pursues him.
After drafting Mitch McGary into an already crowded frontcourt, OKC’s biggest free agent need would seem to be on the perimeter. Ibaka, Steven Adams, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins are all frontcourt players under contract next season. Hasheem Thabeet is on a non-guaranteed deal. But in the backcourt, OKC is expected to lose both Thabo Sefolosha and Caron Butler to free agency.
So for a franchise that needs guard help and has long preached internal growth, it seems a lot more likely the Thunder stick to minor backcourt deals rather than splurging most of its available money on frontcourt help.
But the appeal of Gasol, if he’s willing to take less money, could prove intriguing enough to sway the Thunder a bit from its typical path. He has a more proven post game than anyone that’s ever played in Oklahoma City and a unique ability to pass from the center spot which could help solve some of the offensive stagnation.
An intriguing option, no doubt. But one that still seems to be a long-shot as NBA free agency hits Day 1.