Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Marc Gasol.
How did he play?
About as well as anyone reasonably could have expected. Gasol may have posted the lowest averages of his career in points (5), rebounds (4.1), steals (0.5) and minutes (19.1) per game, but the Lakers were still two full points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than off during the regular season. Gasol also had the fourth-highest net rating of any Laker, according to NBA.com, only trailing LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso.
So while Gasol may not have been his former Defensive of the Year self, no one reasonable was expecting that. At 36, and despite an up-and-down role, he still found ways to help.
But let’s talk about that role, because it’s impossible to fully contextualize Gasol’s season without doing so. When the Lakers added Andre Drummond and made him the starter while benching Gasol in the process, the man known as Big Spain (understandably) didn’t take it well at first, calling it a “hard pill to swallow” while strongly implying he would consider a buyout.
Less than a week later, Gasol said he was “committed” to the team, no matter what his role was, but going from starter to DNP-CD clearly wasn’t easy for him. Of course it wasn’t. Gasol is a future Hall of Famer and clearly has pride in his craft. Instead of lying, he was honest about his feelings in the heat of his frustration. It’s hard to blame him for being unhappy with a role he didn’t sign on for, but it’s laudable that he later completely bought in and stayed ready anyway.
Gasol was in and out of the lineup down the stretch, playing in just 10 of the team’s final 20 games after Drummond was added, but he was once again thrown into the rotation in the postseason, playing in the final five games of the team’s first-round loss to the Suns, replacing Montrezl Harrell as Frank Vogel looked for answers on defense. Gasol couldn’t really provide them, and ended up with the second-worst playoff net rating on the team as a result, with the team getting outscored by 19.1 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, per NBA.com. For context, the team was outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions when Gasol sat.
The sample size was small, and Devin Booker was a uniquely bad matchup for Gasol, but it was not a great playoff finish for a guy a lot of people were demanding play more.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Gasol is under contract for next season at around $2.7 million, but at age 36, he could simply choose to retire or ask to be dealt if he doesn’t want to remain in Los Angeles next season. The team could also include him as salary ballast in a larger deal, although his cheap contract doesn’t help a ton in that respect. There was a lot of speculation last offseason that the final year of Gasol’s deal was a wink-wink severance payment rather than an expectation he’d play two years in purple and gold, but we’ll see what he ultimately does.
Should he be back?
In a vacuum, Gasol at $2.7 million as a capable starter or reserve is a great player to have. He may not be as productive as he once was, but at that salary, he’s still definitely an asset, especially to a team that a) should not be devoting a ton of resources to their center rotation with Anthony Davis on the roster and b) will likely be over the tax and needing all the cheap help they can get. If Gasol wants to stay, the team should absolutely hold on to him.
That said, as our own Jacob Rude noted yesterday while discussing Harrell’s own weird season, this team has some house cleaning to do at center. It tuns out that you can have too much talent. Gasol, Harrell and Drummond are all good players, but the Lakers are probably better off from a locker room perspective only having two of the three, or at least only two centers that expect minutes, especially with Davis best suited to play the five when it matters.
If Gasol returns, great. But that means the team really shouldn’t keep both Drummond and Harrell. Having too much talent may be a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem, something illustrated by the Lakers having one center nearly demanding a buyout midseason and the other two blasting the coaching staff for not playing them more when the season ended. They need to make some decisions about who they’re going to commit to.
Gasol would be a great to have around, but as he said at his exit interview, he also knows he’s not the team’s first priority. We’ll see if he’s on their list at all over the weeks to come.
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