The Minnesota Timberwolves are heavily pursuing free agent Pau Gasol in an attempt to once again team him up with head coach Tom Thibodeau. Gasol’s leadership experience could be an asset for one of the youngest cores in the NBA, and he could assist Thibodeau in holding his players accountable on the court. For this reason, Minnesota is offering Gasol a two-year deal that is worth about $40 million according to ESPN. However, the Timberwolves are currently battling against several teams for Gasol’s services, including the Toronto Raptors, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Portland Trail Blazers. In the end, these teams may beat out Minnesota because he may want a chance to compete for a championship as soon as possible.
For the Timberwolves, not only can the 35-year-old Gasol help the young players on Minnesota continue to grow, but he has yet to show serious signs of decline. Last season with the Chicago Bulls, Gasol averaged 18.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per 36 minutes according to Basketball-Reference. Gasol’s offensive prowess would certainly ignite some life into Minnesota’s mediocre offensive attack (which ranked No. 11 in offensive efficiency according to ESPN.com).
However, Gasol’s most impactful role with the Timberwolves could come off of the court. As SB Nation explains, the Timberwolves could use Gasol’s veteran leadership in mentoring the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
“The biggest strength that Gasol would add would be his veteran presence. The Wolves are still an extremely young team, and Gasol could help them learn the ropes a la Kevin Garnett, but in a much calmer way. Karl-Anthony Towns could learn a lot from Gasol, including how to best utilize his passing and finesse on offensive; imagine a world in which Towns spent his first two seasons in the league learning from future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol!”
However, other than using Gasol in a mentorship type of role, SB Nation says that adding him would fail to truly address any of the weaknesses currently plaguing the Minnesota roster.
“The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t really solve any of the Wolves’ current deficiencies, other than rebounding. He isn’t much of a defensive stopper and doesn’t really stretch the floor. Add in the fact that he will be turning 36 in a few days and I just can’t see his fit with the Wolves.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Gasol will not help Minnesota improve on their struggles. The Timberwolves ranked No. 27 in defensive efficiency according to ESPN this past season, despite the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio. Minnesota will certainly need to improve on this end of the floor if the Timberwolves want to contend in the Western Conference, but Gasol’s addition would not jumpstart that improvement.
Minnesota was one of the worst shooting teams in the league last season, and Gasol is unlikely to help in that regard. Last season, the Timberwolves shot 33.8 percent from behind the arc, tied for the fifth-worst mark in the league. From the perimeter, Gasol shot a strong 45.2 percent from long two-pointers this past season according to Basketball-Reference. Furthermore, Gasol made 34.8 percent of his three-point attempts last season. Still, however, his 1.1 per 36 minutes will not have an impact on Minnesota’s spacing issues, as he has never shot more than 69 shots from behind the arc in any season in his career.
Ultimately, paying over $40 million for veteran leadership is a questionable move, even in this environment. The Timberwolves can certainly find experience for a much lower cost, and Minnesota may elect to do that if their current bidding war for Gasol continues.
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