With a new-look frontcourt, the question marks surrounding the Trail Blazers rotation are getting closer to being answered.
The assumption is that Portland now has its backup center after Wednesday’s news broke with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that Pau Gasol has agreed to a one-year deal with the Trail Blazers on the veteran minimum.
Gasol is about to enter his 19th season in the league. With the addition of Gasol, the Blazers will have 14 players under contract, out of a maximum 15 for this upcoming season.
The newest Trail Blazer is excited to join a team coming off a Western Conference Finals run.
And, since there is no official timetable on Jusuf Nurkic’s return, the Blazers were lacking in depth down low. Gasol will surely shore up that issue, or so it seems, if he is healthy enough to see the court.
Gasol will join a rotation in the frontcourt that will eventually include Nurkić, along with Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins and Skal Labissiere.
From the looks of it, Labissiere may only play due to certain matchups. Portland’s second unit could be more committed to a small ball lineup with 6’8” small forward Mario Hezonja getting minutes at the four as well as 6’ 8” veteran Anthony Tolliver in a backup role.
Our NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh also believes Gasol will be perfect fit in Rip City.
"Pau Gasol will bring championship pedigree to a roster that is light in that department,” Haberstroh said. “At 39 coming off foot surgery, Gasol figures to be a veteran presence to complement Hassan Whiteside as they hold the fort until Jusuf Nurkic is ready. Notably, this signing signals that the Blazers aren’t ready to commit to Zach Collins as a backup five to replace Meyers Leonard."
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Gasol will be healthy enough to play for the Blazers. Gasol, who turned 39 year’s old earlier this month, has been recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. The six-time NBA All-Star, most recently in 2016, has said he is not ready to hang it up just yet.
This move makes total sense for the Trail Blazers locker room. Gasol not only brings veteran leadership, he brings NBA championship experience, he has played with some of the all-time best in the NBA, and now will most likely play alongside youngster Anfernee Simons.
Yes, Gasol has been around the block, everyone knows that, but when thinking about Gasol mentoring Simons teaching the young Blazer about how he ran the floor with Kobe Bryant back in their World Championship days can make Trail Blazers fans’ eyes light up.
Gasol could be looked at as the new Chris Kaman. He doesn’t really see the floor a ton, yet will be a teacher on and off the court.
Gasol is expected to be cleared for full basketball activities in August.
Last season, the veteran big averaged just 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30 games played. It was the first season in Gasol’s NBA career that he has not averaged double digits in scoring.
But just two seasons ago, Gasol averaged 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while playing 23.5 minutes of action. For his career, the number three overall pick of the 2001 NBA draft, holds averages of 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds.
This is now the summer of Blazers adding players that they went after in the past. Gasol joins Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside and Mario Hezonja as the four players who Portland had previously tried to sign.