Andrew Bogut

Pau Gasol makes some sense for the Warriors, but not enough

The Warriors are reportedly one of the “contending” teams that will take a meeting with free agent PF/C Pau Gasol, who Bob Fitzgerald has hinted would be a great candidate for the team’s mid-level exception. Gasol is one of my favorite players over the last 15 years, because he combines superhuman fundamentals with one of the most hilariously earnest personalities in NBA history.

Gasol has won championships. The Warriors could use some Bogut insurance (unless they trust Festus Ezeli, which doesn’t seem wise). Gasol would be a mammoth upgrade over Marreese Speights. However, while there’s a slight chance Gasol will take what the Warriors can offer ($5.3 million per season) if they make him feel comfortable and loved (no pun intended), why would he go to a team that couldn’t promise him a starting role if that team didn’t already include at least one player who was a lock for the Hall of Fame?

If the Warriors trade for Kevin Love, Gasol wouldn’t push a *healthy* Bogut to the bench. If they don’t trade for Love, starting Gasol over Lee (while arguably the prudent move) doesn’t seem like something the Warriors would do.

The Bulls, Thunder and Knicks are also interested in Gasol, and there’s a good chance he’d start for all three of those teams. There appeared to be a chance for Pau to sign with his first NBA team and play with his brother, but that seems less likely with Memphis signing Zach Randolph to a two-year extension.

Also, isn’t Gasol a bit of a luxury signing for Golden State? It’s not impossible for the Warriors to lure him 400 miles north of where he played for seven seasons, but it is really the best idea?

The Warriors could use some frontcourt depth, but they only have the mid-level exception (and the TPE — more on that in a bit) and they NEED to bolster their team in two other areas.

1. Guard(s)

Steve Blake was a bust for the Warriors, and he’s a free agent now. The Warriors, unsurprisingly, didn’t tender Jordan Crawford a contract. Excluding Andre Iguodala (who’s more of a small forward), the only guards under contract are Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Nemanja Nedovic. Yep. This team needs guys who can dribble … badly.

2. Athleticism

Harrison Barnes can throw down some pretty decent dunks if contact avoidance is guaranteed (except during Dunk Contests, apparently). Thompson has stamina and sneaks up on teams with dunks in traffic now and then. Iguodala still has above-average athleticism, but he’s 30 and has played 29,908 NBA minutes including the playoffs. That’s it when it comes to top-notch athletes, although Draymond Green made some strides in this area between his rookie and sophomore seasons.

Gasol has played over 36,000 minutes in his NBA career, and he’s probably not a guy you’d want backing up either Curry or Thompson.

No. 1 on that list should be relatively easy to fill — it’s making the right choice that’d be difficult.

The Warriors could go after one of the obvious candidates (Rodney Stuckey, Ramon Sessions, Shaun Livingston) or go with an undersized guard like Avery Bradley (a 6′ 2″ shooting guard who defends, shoots threes and doesn’t do much else), Patrick Mills (a 6′ 0″ point guard who’d be a killer signing from a PR standpoint, but could be overpriced after shining on the big stage) or Darren Collison (another 6′ 0″ point guard who looked like a would-be starter earlier in his career — he’s not known as a good defender, but he’s fast and he gave Curry some trouble in the first round of the playoffs).

There’s also Isaiah Thomas, who the Warriors reportedly contacted right after the free agency discussion window officially began last night. I really, really wanted the Warriors to draft Thomas. Instead they took Charles Jenkins, and the Kings got Thomas with the last pick of the second round. I’m not sure why Thomas would go from a 20 ppg starter to sitting behind Curry and Thompson, but crazier things have happened.

No. 2 is more difficult. Without a draft pick, the Warriors are going to have to bolster their backcourt athleticism via free agency, but more than anything else they need someone who can run the offense so Curry doesn’t have to do it for 37+ minutes every game.

There’s also a $9.8 million trade exception the Warriors can use until July 10, but it’d have to be the right deal and player. And until we see differently, the Warriors are not a team that’s too keen on paying the luxury tax.

If Golden State landed Gasol, no one would complain. It’d be a landmark signing that would signal how far this organization has come, plus Gasol is a fun guy to watch. But as cool as it would be to convince Gasol to come to the Bay Area, it’d be sort of like getting a free cheeseburger at In-N-Out after you’ve already eaten a double-double animal style, fries (well done, of course) and a shake. Whether or not the Warriors keep Thompson long-term, they need backcourt reinforcements more than an aging big, despite how much Gasol’s game could help.

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