Gasol update: Don’t hold out hope, Spurs fans

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LAS VEGAS — The Spurs’ courtship of Pau Gasol has clearly been the most dramatic part of the offseason in San Antonio, and late Friday night it seemed the tides turned toward the favor of the Chicago Bulls, the other suitor in the Pau chase. Reports stated the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers were “working” toward a sign-and-trade agreement that would send the big man to the Windy City, but a very tricky cap situation and the parameters of the CBA have made life difficult for both sides.

San Antonio, to our knowledge, is simply offering a contract worth up to the full mid-level exception ($5.305 mil), something Chicago is capable of giving as well. The Spurs’ offer is simple; the Bulls’ is not.

Let’s get this out of the way: Should Pau pick the Bulls based on reasons not associated with money, it wouldn’t be surprising at all. Chicago is one of the greatest cities on the planet, it’s a big market, and Gasol would likely have a shot at more playing time under Tom Thibodeau than he would with the crowded streets of the Spurs’ roster. But the logistics of a sign-and-trade between the two sides are very complicated.

Reports surfaced this morning that the Bulls are looking to send Mike Dunleavy and the expiring contracts of Mike James, Lou Amundson, and Ronnie Brewer (which is so hilariously NBA). The salaries of these four players line up like this:

Dunleavy — $3,326,235
James — $1,448,490
Amundson — $1,310,286
Brewer — $1,310,286

Total — $7,395,297

That cap figure, if looking at it in a vacuum, would be a very palatable price to pay for Gasol in a trade (not to mention, if that’s all you had to give up to get Pau…). But it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

Gasol’s cap hold is a monster — $20,250,143 million, to be exact. If you include both the Lakers’ trade for Jeremy Lin and the new deal for Jordan Hill, L.A.’s payroll currently sits at an astounding ~$77.1 million. If you’re keeping track, this means they did not have the cap space to acquire Lin in a simple cash transaction. With that Gasol cap hold still in place, the Lakers were capped, and unless another move is made, the trade wouldn’t work within the CBA guidelines. So something else is in the works.

But the new information this morning is that L.A. is holding off, for now, on the reported four-year, $21.5 million deal for Nick Young in an effort to complete Pau deal first. If this is the case, Young’s cap hold is only $915,243 rather than the $5 million or so his contract would’ve guaranteed in the first year. This puts both teams in position to make things happen.

My prediction: L.A. renounces the rights to Gasol, leaving it with a bit more than $6.2 million in cap space on paper (before potentially shedding any other salary), which they’d then use to sign and trade Pau. That price tag is close enough to the total of the reported contracts Chicago would be giving away in the transaction to fit within the CBA’s sign-and-trade guidelines.

This seems like the simple path, and perhaps it’s more complicated than this in the sense that the teams involved may have different objectives, like actually signing Young or potentially finding more money for Gasol. But from what it sounds like, the deal is about to be completed.

It’s not often big(-ish)-name free agents come down to San Antonio, so Spurs fans are used to this. But Gasol appears to have a better situation available to him in Chicago. He would’ve been a nice cherry on top of the roster, but let’s be realistic — it’s already pretty decent the way it is.

Update: Gasol is reportedly signing with the Bulls outright, not being traded. Unless some other, unreported cap gymnastics are happening behind the scenes, this means he’ll be signing for the mid-level exception — the same the Spurs were able to offer. We’re still waiting on the official news, and maybe the actual deal was lost in translation, but it seems like he’ll be signing outright at the moment.


  • Graham

    Not a lot of time to go around on our roster, for pau’s motives, the bulls are a much better choice.

  • k191

    Gasol is not a spring chicken. You’re assuming he wants to play more minutes. He may want to play fewer, which is not likely with Thibodeau.
    You’re also assuming that Gasol is more interested in the beauty of Chicago winters than a shot at another championship. If he feels like he already has “enough” money, the ring may be more priority than the dollars.
    (I think Gasol will probably go to Chicago, and I think he will regret it by January.)

  • Ray Briggs II

    I thought this might be the ONE time the Spurs got the big name FA. Because in the time of Tim Duncan I don’t think the Spurs have every attracted a marquee FA. So close this time.
    I wonder if they do anything with their MLE now? I’d still like to see them make a move instead of just retaining Bonner.

  • Carlo

    Subscribe to every word.
    Besides, I think CHI could provide “some” chances of win. Add that to the city environment, the relative money and that ought overcome the “resting” pace of Pop’s Spurs and the higher win chances.

  • DorieStreet

    Different summer — same ol’ story.
    Despite the deal for Pau not coming through, it’s still the time to move on from Bonner now.

  • GoSpursGo

    Pau would have been nice. However, does it make sense to see if an Amnestied Boozer would be interested in the MLE or vet minimum? he would be an upgrade to Ayers and Baynes in terms of hands and ability to finish. While he is certainly not a 16 million a year player, he might be nice at 5.4 mill a year. I just am a bit concerned about big man depth past Diaw, Tiag, and Duncan.

  • GoSpursGo

    Pau was always a huge longshot. the fact that we were on his list of finalists with basically very little to offer in terms of salary (relative to his worth) says a lot. i think Chicago is a better fit for him-they actually need him while here he would have been a luxury and maybe not even a starter. And I think he wanted a more cosmopolitan city than SA. I think the fact that the Spurs were even a consideration was miraculous

  • WSSNW

    I agree. The west gets tougher and tougher every year, and Bonner gives them less and less every year. They need to decide if Baynes is good enough to be the fourth big. I’m not sure. I would really like to see them use the MLE on a wing defender. Pau would have been nice. Really nice. Scale back Timmie’s minutes even more…..sigh. We can only dream.

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  • Riotsmoke

    I think it has less to do with “they need him there” and more with the “they’re going to pretend like they need him there”. The Bulls don’t need Gasol… Yes he’s an upgrade over Boozer, but you’re essentially having to restructure your line-up to fit him in there. Noah is gonna have to move to a 4, so Gasol can start at the 5. That may not seem like much, but when you factor in that Noah won DPOY honors because he could block shots and rebound, then it completely changes the dynamic of that team. Now you’re gonna see stretch-4’s go up against Noah and completely take him out of his game because he doesn’t want to come out and protect the 3-pt line. Chicago needs a wing who can light up the scoreboard, not another center.

    Pau took this for one reason and one reason only.. playing time. He knows he can start in Chicago, where as if he signed with SA, he’d probably be the running 2nd fiddle to Tiago and he knew that.

  • Nomo Stew

    That’s pretty interesting. I know Boozer’s rep, but what if a guy with those physical tools could learn to play Spurs-style ball? A guy who can’t quite learn to play the right way for Thibs is a risky choice, but maybe Pop is that much better.

  • Nomo Stew

    I think Gasol, an unusually smart man off the court as well, is also interested in his historical reputation. Helping to carry a new team to the conference finals would help that. On the Spurs, he’d just be another piece of a proven champion.

  • Carlo

    Not an expert but maybe Thibs D system is more physically demanding (always running over the offense). Then, Spurs system is no more solely based upon D alone.
    A good mid/long range shooter could surely help. He’d be another worry for opponents’ defense, spreading the court effectively.
    Anyway, if Boozer comes for cheap… why not? You could use him vs not-so-effective defensive teams. Just imagine a 2nd unit with Splitter under the board and Beli, Patty, Booz & Boris around. Four guys, each of them a menace for the ring.