The Los Angeles Lakers appear more and more likely by the day to move on from Marc Gasol this offseason. As more reports surface, and more players are linked to the team in buyouts and free agency rumors, Gasol’s future in Los Angeles looks grimmer and grimmer.
The veteran big man had anything but a smooth first season as a Laker, shuffling in and out of not just the starting lineup, but the rotation as a whole. The result was a frustrated Gasol that appeared to be considering asking for a buyout before opting to remain with the team, only to struggle in the playoffs, raising more questions about his future with the organization.
While he has committed to playing the 2021-22 season, the Lakers have far from reciprocated that commitment. Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein’s latest newsletter is the most recent report of the Lakers looking for other center options despite Gasol being on the roster (emphasis mine):
When he formally re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers after negotiating a buyout with Memphis, Rajon Rondo (35) will become the ninth Laker in his 30s on a roster expected to feature 14 players (and two more on two-way contracts). He’ll join Carmelo Anthony (37), LeBron James (36), Marc Gasol (36), Trevor Ariza (36), Dwight Howard (35), Wayne Ellington (33), Russell Westbrook (32) and Kent Bazemore (32). It’s a number, though, that could still be adjusted if the Lakers and Gasol ultimately part ways. As discussed in a recent This Week In Basketball column, league sources say that L.A. has explored the pursuit of other centers even though Gasol has one year left on his original two-year deal.
The free agent market is rather barren with center options, which could explain the wording of Stein’s report. Buyout options could be another solution for the Lakers, who just landed Rajon Rondo after a buyout with the Grizzlies. While Memphis has served as the Lakers’ feeder team in recent years, it’s unlikely the team is interested in buying out the remaining $35 million on Steven Adams’ salary, the lone veteran big man on their roster.
Kevin Love remains an interesting name to monitor, though his current situation in Cleveland doesn’t appear to have an imminent conclusion with his side putting out that he has no interest in a buyout. DeAndre Jordan’s situation, conversely, does appear imminent and could potentially serve as the most likely option should he get out of Brooklyn.
After that, their focus would likely have to turn to the free agent market, where the options are sparse. DeMarcus Cousins has a history with the Lakers, but he has hardly looked like anything resembling his old self post-injuries. Paul Millsap is a popular name, but he’s not a center nor has he been able to make much of a positive impact in recent years, falling entirely out of the Nuggets’ rotation by the end of the postseason last year. While other names might have some appeal to them — Ed Davis, Harry Giles — none are better than the incumbent option of Gasol.
All of this leaves the Lakers in an interesting predicament. Gasol is clearly not part of their plans moving forward, but their alternative is not immediately clear. Nonetheless, it appears increasingly likely that Gasol’s time with the Lakers is nearing a potential end, no matter who ultimately replaces him.