Tom Thibodeau routinely sang the praises of Pau Gasol, saying the Spaniard was a godsend and believing Gasol was the player he could most depend on.
And Gasol was rewarded for his consistency with his fourth All-NBA selection, being named as a member of the second team, along with Russell Westbrook (OKC), Chris Paul (LAC), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland).
LeBron James (Cleveland), MVP Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and Gasol’s younger brother, Marc (Memphis), headlines the first team.
Gasol received 15 first place votes and a total of 242 total points based on a voting scale presented to media. Gasol averaged 18.5 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds in his 14th season, resulting in his fourth All-Star appearance.
Other than San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, who made the third team, Gasol is the oldest member of the All-NBA teams at 34 years old.
Gasol made the third team in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before making the second team in 2010-11. The first two were in seasons the Lakers won NBA championships after he was acquired from Memphis in 2008.
Coming to Chicago after the Bulls lost out in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, he was believed to be a complementary piece after two struggling seasons with the Lakers where he and former coach Mike D’Antoni disagreed on how Gasol was to be used.
The Bulls beat out the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs for Gasol’s services, likely because they could offer more than a mid-level exception and also because the Bulls could feature Gasol in the offense.
And Gasol proved night after night he still had more to offer as a focal point offensively, helping the Bulls absorb injury-induced losses to Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler as well as the health decline of frontcourt mate Joakim Noah.
Gasol gave the Bulls an offensive hub from the block and low post, often starting games off as the first option to get the Bulls to early leads, helping the Bulls to their best offensive season in years.
Intangibly, Gasol spoke out against the Bulls’ lack of urgency, repeatedly saying they couldn’t flip a switch to turn into the team they had visions on being.
Unfortunately, he was right as the Bulls fell short of their goal of getting to the Finals, but Gasol seemed to do his part.
His offensive rating of 112 pointers per 100 possessions was 10 points higher than last season, and his highest rating since 2012. Integrating himself into Thibodeau’s defense-first system resulted in his second-best defensive rating of allowing 101 points per 100 possessions, a marked improvement from giving up 108 and 106 the last two seasons.
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Who knows if Gasol’s 34.4 minutes per game played a part in his hamstring injury slowing him down early in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he put together a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-assist masterpiece in the series opening win in Cleveland.
He began to feel tightness in the next game while playing just 21 minutes in their buzzer-beating Game 3 win before missing Games 4 and 5. Gasol returned for Game 6, giving the Bulls an emotional lift early that they couldn’t sustain.
But in a season full of change that will likely lead to more of it in the offseason, Gasol’s steadiness, should he sustain it at age 35 next season, could help stabilize the team next fall.