The Los Angeles Lakers’ roster is mostly set, with just three roster spots up for grabs. Two of those will be filled before the season starts while the third is likely to be kept empty for flexibility heading into the season. Although most of the squad structure is in place, there is reportedly one major question mark that could change the Lakers’ roster building strategy for the rest of the offseason. According to Marc Stein on his newsletter, Marc Gasol is “not a lock” to return to the Lakers this season after a tumultuous first year in purple and gold.
Gasol does still have a year under contract. According to some reports, the Lakers tried trading the center earlier in the summer in what would effectively have been a salary dump. Last season, Gasol’s role was shifted often, from starter to bench big once Andre Drummond was signed to sometimes not even appearing in games. As it stands now, Gasol would likely be the starting center once again with Dwight Howard backing him up but there probably has to be some discussion about the veteran’s role between the player and the coaching staff.
Stein says it’s not clear if Gasol would be aiming to sign with another NBA team if he is released from his contract or if he would finish his playing career in Spain like his brother Pau. He also does not specify if the uncertainty around the player is due to his not wanting to return to LA or the franchise wanting to move on. It’s important to note that Gasol claimed he would return to the Lakers to finish out his contract after Spain’s Olympics run.
Gasol is very clearly nowhere near the All-Star he was in his prime, having averaged just five points and four rebounds per game last season. But his impact goes far past the box score and even if he is not playing a ton, his presence on the court is usually a positive for the Lakers. That’s especially true if he is willing to take the open threes presented to him – a big if, to be fair – as that makes him an ideal fit next to Anthony Davis to protect him from bruising bigs while leaving space for him to attack the rim.
If Gasol and the Lakers are indeed headed for a divorce then the organization will have to swerve from only working out guards and wings to finding another big; Davis and Howard are the only other true bigs on the roster and unless AD moves to the five spot full time, the team will need some extra depth at that position.
The marriage between Gasol and the Lakers has not so far been as symbiotic as the one between his older brother and the franchise. But if both sides can come to an agreement about how he can contribute to the team, it would only serve to help their quest for an 18th championship.