NBA Free Agency: Pau Gasol open to Lakers return, will have many suitors, per report

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pau Gasol lasted through the end of his contract in Los Angeles, and both sides will be open to staying together this summer.

Pau Gasol will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, making him one of the most talented available frontcourt players. Gasol will have plenty of suitors lined up this summer, but he will give "strong consideration" to staying with the Los Angeles Lakersreports ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

Gasol has strong ties to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who has advocated for his return, and a deep affinity for Los Angeles and the franchise he won two NBA titles with. While the constant trade rumors stung, Gasol learned to live with them and has a level of expectation that a new coaching staff would prioritize him more than Mike D'Antoni did, sources said.

ESPN reported Friday that the New York Knicks are preparing to make a run at the 7-foot Spaniard, who thrived in new Knicks president Phil Jackson's triangle offense in L.A. The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are also expected to pursue Gasol in free agency, sources said.

Gasol just wrapped up the final, $19 million, season of the $57 million three-year extension he signed with the Lakers in 2009. He bounced back from a miserable 2012-2013 campaign where he averaged 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting, bumping his numbers up to just under his career averages.

The Lakers just drafted their franchise power forward in Julius Randle but still have the center position to fill out. Gasol can also slide down to power forward to take some pressure off Randle early on, and provides some flexibility in their frontcourt rotation.

Los Angeles is open to fitting Gasol into their future, especially if they miss on the superstar talent they hope to sign. The front office is weighing the possibility of Gasol being a way to lure Carmelo Anthony if they are unable to pair him with LeBron James, providing him another established championship player in the Lakers' lineup along with Kobe Bryantaccording to a report from ESPN's Dave McMenamin.

Gasol could be the best available free agent big man for the Lakers this summer, but he might be an expensive player to bring back, depending on the offers he receives. His versatility on offense would mesh well with Randle, but it could make for a challenging pairing on defense. Gasol's mobility has been an issue, and the Lakers will need a rim protector to help 6'9 Randle in the paint.

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