Loyalty is extremely important to the culture of the San Antonio Spurs but Pau Gasol’s fit with this team simply doesn’t make sense anymore.
Over the course of his 18 seasons in the NBA, Spanish power forward Pau Gasol has transformed the conventions of modern centers and power forwards. As one of the most skilled passers at his position, Gasol made it normal for big men to distribute the ball by holding his ground in the high post and finding teammates off of screens and cuts.
His soft jump shot compliments a lengthy and physical frame, making Gasol one of the game’s most effortless post scorers of the last two decades. His veteran guidance has been immense for the San Antonio Spurs over the last three years, though his on-court production is nowhere close to what it once was.
With third-year center Jakob Poeltl coming into his own and All-NBA power forward LaMarcus Aldridge transitioning to center, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep Gasol in the starting rotation. The 38-year-old started in the past three games for San Antonio, finishing with only four points and 12 rebounds in that span. Gasol is simply a shell of himself as a defender and has a limited range of motion, ultimately slowing his team down.
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Gasol is incredibly heavy footed nowadays and his defensive effort has steadily declined with time. With this in mind, head coach Gregg Popovich may want to consider limiting Gasol’s place in the rotation going forward. Competing for a playoff bid in the Western Conference is no easy task, so the Spurs will need all of the help they can get. Implementing a player with Gasol’s physical limitations shifts the dynamic of the team, harming a squad that has boomed offensively in recent weeks.
Poeltl, who has spent plenty of time working with both Gasol and franchise legend Tim Duncan at Spurs facilities, has displayed an innate ability to find teammates and generate offense away from the ball in a half court setting. His passing is impressive for a player at his position and his hustle on the offensive glass is unmatched. Poeltl is outshining Gasol in virtually every category, and yet Pop insists on keeping Pau in the rotation.
With two first round picks in this year’s draft, general manager R.C. Buford may want to consider attaching some second rounders to Gasol in a salary dump. Cap flexibility is going to be important in building a contender in the coming summer, so getting $16 million off the books would enable the Spurs to pay their current players and bring in new talent to round out the roster.
Gasol’s best years are behind him and the Spurs are forming excellent chemistry midway through the season, so this is the perfect time to phase Gasol out of the rotation and onto the bench.