It’s a two-year deal in Los Angeles for Gasol, who returns to the team that drafted him. He never played for the Lakers in his first stint, but he will be an integral part of the title favourites in 2020/21 a couple of seasons after winning a ring with the Toronto Raptors. The Lakers received Alfonso McKinnie and Jordan Bell‘s non-guaranteed contracts in the McGee trade while sending out a second-round pick – McGee joins Andre Drummond, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. in the Cavs frontcourt.
Make no mistake, Gasol is a long way from the player who received three All-Star nods and won Defensive Player of the Year. That isn’t the player the Lakers need him to be, though. Los Angeles resurrected the career of Dwight Howard last season, and McGee started the majority of games. Even in his mid-thirties, the sunset of a probable Hall of Fame career, Gasol is still an upgrade at centre for the Lakers.
What does Gasol bring to the Lakers?
He doesn’t bring the rebounding presence of McGee or Howard. He’s not going to lurk in the dunkers spot and chuck down lobs or accelerate on the break. Gasol was the hub of the Memphis Grizzlies‘ grit-and-grind, he’s a player the offence can be run through. Standing at 6’11, Gasol has the strength to go against the league’s best big men (notably Nikola Jokic) in the post on the defensive end.
Rob Pelinka has replaced Howard’s muscular post defence and brought another offensive asset to the team. The Lakers were so-so in half-court situations for much of last season – the arrival of Gasol gives Frank Vogel another option, and crucially compensates for some of the playmaking by Rajon Rondo‘s departure.
The Spaniard isn’t the most fleet of foot, nor is he going to be swinging his arms to block shots. Gasol reads the game as well as any big man, however, enabling him to make up for his physical limitations.
Although occasionally reluctant to shoot it, Gasol is an effective three-point shooter. That’s something that none of McGee, Howard or Montrezl Harrell can offer. A floor spacer, a playmaker in non-LeBron James minutes, and an above-average interior defender; Gasol ticks a lot of boxes for the Lakers. He can play next to Anthony Davis, and maybe he’ll share the frontcourt with the recently signed Harrell at times.
Gasol isn’t going to play huge minutes. Certain matchups will exploit him. He’s probably going to be around 20 minutes per contest. That’s fine with Harrell and Davis covering the remaining minutes at the five.
This offseason could have been difficult for the Lakers with Howard, Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Avery Bradley hitting free agency. Three of them have left the team, but Pelinka has found a way to make them better. Gasol, heading into his age-36 season, is still a difference maker, and a signing that will worry the rest of the league.