Lakers Could Seek to Bring Back Star Center Traded Long Ago

Marc Gasol, left, and potential future teammate JaVale McGee.

Getty Marc Gasol, left, and potential future teammate JaVale McGee.

In what has proven to be a wild and unpredictable evening for the Lakers in free agency, a new wrinkle has emerged. With last year’s starter, JaVale McGee opting to stay with the team, ex-Clipper Montrezl Harrell on board, Dwight Howard headed to Philadelphia, and the Lakers still interested in Serge Ibaka and DeMarcus Cousins, a new name of interest has joined the fray: Marc Gasol of the Raptors.

The Lakers are on the hunt for a low-cost big man to replace Howard and back up McGee. Gasol, who has considered wrapping up his NBA career and playing in Spain, could make a stop with the Lakers next season before doing so.

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According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Gasol, “has emerged as a free-agent target for the Lakers.”

Gasol will turn 35 in January and is coming off the worst season of his 12-year career. He averaged 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season, shooting just 42.7% from the field but making 38.5% of his 3-pointers. As he has aged, Gasol has increasingly relied on the 3, and took 3.4 shots from the arc per game last year (out of 6.3 total shots).

Marc Gasol Was Drafted by the Lakers Originally

There would be some symmetry to Gasol closing out his career in Los Angeles. He was originally drafted by the Lakers in the second round of 2007 NBA draft, but played in Spain for a season instead of joining the team immediately.

Before he could suit up for the Lakers, he was swapped to Memphis for his older brother, Pau Gasol, who was already an All-Star in the NBA.

That deal was derided by many around the league, seen as a gift from then-GM of the Grizzlies, former Lakers star and front-office guru Jerry West, to his old team. The Lakers gave up only Marc Gasol, plus first-round picks that became Donte Greene and Greivis Vasquez, along with Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie. Pau Gasol stepped in and immediately became the secondary star the Lakers were looking to pair with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers went to the NBA Finals in 2008, with Pau Gasol leading the way.

But once Marc Gasol did suit up in the NBA, he earned a reputation for the offensive versatility and defensive toughness that came to define the so-called “Grit-and-Grind” Grizzles. Gasol won the starting job in his rookie season and averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. Suddenly, the lopsided trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers did not seem so lopsided.

Marc Gasol Has Strong Resume, Fits Lakers Needs

There would be some justice, then, if Marc Gasol wound up back with the Lakers, the team that drafted and traded him.

He is slow of foot and not quite the defensive player he once was—he was Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA in 2013—Gasol is still a heady and experienced veteran who could help the Lakers off the bench or with spot starts. In the absence of Howard, they will need another big guy to pick up that slack.

He would have to be willing to take the veterans’ minimum salary, and it is unclear whether that is a route Gasol would want to take.

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