Two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, giving the veteran center the ability to control his own fate for the first time in his career.
Even though Gasol hasn’t ruled out a return to the Los Angeles Lakers, the writing appears to be on the wall that he’s seriously considering signing elsewhere. Being trade bait for three straight years and seeing the team crumble around him over the last two seasons may have been enough to push Gasol out the door.
According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the majority of NBA executives believe four teams will be atop of the list of candidates to land Gasol in free agency:
Gasol, though, will have options. A poll of NBA executives on Gasol’s future returned many of the same answers: Chicago. Cleveland. Charlotte, if the Bobcats believe a Gasol-Al Jefferson front line can stop anybody. Memphis, if Zach Randolph opts out. Even after a disappointing season — and with the understanding that Gasol has never been a strap-a-team-on-his-back kind of player — Gasol will be among the most sought after free agents on the market.
Gasol fell in love with the city of Los Angeles and the fans of the storied franchise ever since he was traded to the Lakers back in 2008 from the Memphis Grizzlies. The Spaniard instantly changed the team’s chances of competing in the Western Conference with Kobe Bryant and Gasol becoming arguably the best one-two punch in the NBA.
Unfortunately, Gasol’s time in Los Angeles might be coming to an end. With Gasol wanting to contend for a championship in the twilight of his NBA career, the best options will be elsewhere with the Chicago Bulls and Grizzlies potentially being the most intriguing.
Although Gasol appears to be on his way out, the Lakers organization has a knack for turning things around quickly. Los Angeles will not be out of contention to re-sign Gasol if the team is able to make some moves in the off-season and prove to the veteran center that the Lakers may still be a force in the West moving forward.
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