There is no doubt that Pau Gasol was a huge reason why Spain claimed a bronze medal in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio. In their most hyped game, the veteran center scored 23 points and eight rebounds.
It felt like whoever the U.S. sent to guard him would not be up to the task at all. Both DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan were relatively ineffective in stopping Spain’s best player from having his way around the basket.
Due to the closer three-point line, the former Bull even canned two triples from behind the arc when USA’s bigs were reluctant to check him on the perimeter.
That performance bodes well for his next stop in San Antonio. The elder Gasol performed admirably in Chicago. He averaged 16 points per game and 11 rebounds per game last year. He still provides size on the interior and can score the ball well down in the post.
But, that he is a Spur, what role will he fill in San Antonio?:
The Man in the Middle
The 36-year-old has always thrived at center even though he played some power forward in his Lakers days. At seven feet tall, he is still a presence around the basket. Not as agile, and really never has been, but size is hard to find in the NBA.
Tim Duncan is retired now and LaMarcus Aldridge does not like playing center. The 15 year veteran fills both of these needs by giving the franchise the stability that they thrive upon. He may not have the same defensive chops as Duncan but he will do as a placeholder.
Pop and Maximizing Efficiency
Coach Gregg Popovich is known for bringing out the best in the players that end up on the roster. The Spurs do things their way and if you don’t fit, then you are out. The coach has always respected Gasol’s game from afar due to the battles with Los Angeles.
San Antonio’s offense prides itself on crisp ball movement and precision cutting motion from players. The scheme I just described is exactly how Spain’s Olympic team runs their own plays. It also helps that this motion is usually created through their centers.
Lockdown Defensive Unit
The rest of the squad in Texas plays extremely stingy team defense. This is a great sign for their newest acquisition. He won’t have to be an elite defensive stopper at his position with the lack of dominant offensive centers in the conference.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game with another above-average defender in Danny Green alongside him. LaMarcus Aldridge plays decent team scheme defense and the smaller guards use crafty positioning to coax steals from the opposition.
All Gasol will have to do is protect the rim to the best of his ability and their fans will be chanting “Go, Spurs, Go!” all season long. He may not be the same player that became a two-time champion in California but, his skill can help the Spurs keep the gravy train rolling.