Pau Gasol Is a Perfect Fit for the San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs bolstered their frontcourt by signing the five-time All Star. How much does he help them?

The Golden State Warriors stole the NBA offseason, but their competition is still making some waves, too.

The San Antonio Spurs bolstered their frontcourt this offseason by signing Pau Gasol to a two-year deal worth $30 million. With Spurs legend Tim Duncan seriously weighing retirement, the signing of Gasol is a perfect move for San Antonio. Gasol is coming off of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Last year, Gasol proved he could still play at a high level, ranking in the top-20 in several defensive, rebounding, and other advanced statistics.

Category Stat NBA Ranking
Block Rate 4.7% 7th
Total Rebounding Rate 18.2% 18th
Defensive Win Shares 3.9 14th
Defensive Rating 100.9 19th
PER 21.7 19th
Value Over Replacement Player 3.5 18th

The new Spurs’ center also registered a 4.5 nERD score last year, which was the 39th-best in the league. This means a team full of league-average players would win about four or five more games with Gasol on the team.

Gasol averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game with the Bulls last season, and in fact, he was the only player in the NBA to post those numbers.

In addition to his rebounding and defensive prowess, Gasol’s passing ability is one of his best and most underrated skills. Gasol’s assist rate of 21.7% last year was the second-best of his career.

A big man with his passing acumen is not common and was one of the main reasons he was able to post such an impressive stat line.

His ability to find the open man will be a perfect fit for the Spurs, one of the best teams in the league in terms of ball movement.

Pau Gasol’s 46.9% field goal percentage and 52.9% true shooting percentage were both under his career averages last season. But, a possible reason for this drop is that Gasol took roughly one-third (32.7%) of his shot attempts from mid-range, the highest percentage of his career.

He shot 45.2% on those attempts, which is quite good, but the Spurs will likely get him more looks closer to the basket, thus raising his effectiveness from the field.

Also, Gasol added a three-point shot to his arsenal last season. He took a career high 69 shots from downtown in 72 games played and made 34.8%, a respectable conversion rate.

Gasol on a $15 million per year contract is a bargain. The Spurs’ frontcourt of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Gasol will be tough to handle and will keep San Antonio as a contender in the Western Conference.

However, it will be interesting to see whether head coach Gregg Popovich sticks with his two big men when the Golden State Warriors trot out their new and improved “small ball” lineup come playoff time.