The Los Angeles Lakers are looking for “one more big man” on the NBA free agent market after the departure of Dwight Howard, and it looks like they could be in the hunt for one of the best remaining players available. Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the team has become a “serious suitor” for Marc Gasol.
Gasol is still very much being chased by the incumbent Toronto Raptors, so the Lakers aren’t in the clear yet, but them being a “serious” consideration despite really only being able to offer a veteran’s minimum contract is a promising development. Marc Stein of the New York Times originally broke the story of the Lakers’ interest in Gasol shortly after Howard’s agent announced he was leaving for the Sixers:
Marc Gasol has emerged as a free-agent target for the Lakers to fill the void created by Dwight Howard's departure to Philadelphia, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 21, 2020
Gasol was originally drafted by the Lakers in the second-round of the 2007 NBA Draft, but he never signed with the team before his rights were traded for his brother, Pau Gasol, in 2008. Now, it at least appears possible that a second Gasol brother could help the Lakers repeat as NBA champions.
On paper, Gasol is a dream fit next to Anthony Davis, or at least the best version of him is. While he only averaged 8 points per game on 44.2% shooting from the field in his two seasons with the Raptors, he shot 40% from 3-point range on 200 attempts. He also ranked fifth in defensive real plus-minus (3.42) among centers. Only Rudy Gobert (+4.85), Daniel Theis (4.45), Brook Lopez (3.60) and Nikola Jokic (3.51).
He’s not a perfect Howard replacement in the sense that they’re equal player, but he does give them a strong post defender, which was part of the appeal in bringing Howard back. Howard’s post defense earned him a spot in the starting lineup during the Western Conference Finals; Gasol’s would be too, especially with Montrezl Harrell and JaVale McGee as the Lakers’ only other options at center.
Gasol is also a really high IQ basketball player, and the Lakers’ cutters would benefit from having a center like him — that can pass out of the post and shoot 3-pointers — on the roster. He’d be a home run signing, but that’s if he’s still got something left in the tank. If he’s still the Gasol the Raptors got in the Orlando bubble, that’s a pretty big “if.”
But even then, the Lakers would have to sign Gasol for the veteran’s minimum now that they’ve hard capped themselves by reportedly using both the full mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception. If that’s the case, then I’m sure Los Angeles wouldn’t mind having another Gasol brother.