Given that the insanity of the draft season is in full swing, it's time to take a look at the crazy trade rumors that have encompassed the Cavaliers. It's time to discuss whether or not the Cavs should move their pick for a veteran.
We're going to continue our brigade of trade analysis by discussing Marc Gasol, which is a much more nuanced discussion than Randolph. Gasol was another name brought up by Mary Schmitt Boyer in both this article on who the Cavaliers could pursue if/when they don't get Kevin Love, along with this mailbag that she did. Here were her thoughts on Gasol specifically in the first article:
Here are four other players the Cavs could consider targeting if Love breaks their heart. Not saying any of these are likely, for some of the reasons specified and because of their contract situations, but just some suggestions for Plan B.
1. Memphis' Marc Gasol: Not sure exactly what's going on in Memphis, so maybe the Cavs could make a quick deal before things settle down. Like Love, he has one more year on his contract.
Let's start with the player specifically: Marc Gasol is one hell of a basketball player. He would immediately put the Cavaliers in the playoffs, as he'd not only provide fantastic, top-of-the-league defense -- including rim protection -- but also exceptional ball movement and the ability to space the floor out to 17 feet. Pairing Gasol with Kyrie Irving in the pick-and-roll/pop is the dream scenario for Irving's development. Gasol almost always makes the right decision: whether he's diving to the rim for a lay-up, spacing the floor with his jumper, or reversing the ball after receiving a pass from the point guard, Gasol is one of the more underrated offensive players in the league. He knows his role, and completely understands his limitations.
As far as his talent is concerned, he's in the prime of his career. He's 29 years old, but also doesn't have a ton of mileage or injury history on his body. He had an MCL injury this season and an abdominal tear last year, but nothing chronic. Plus, he was a late bloomer and only has 436 games and 15,000 minutes on his relatively healthy body (compare this to Greg Monroe, who at 23 years old already has nearly 10,000 minutes on his body).
As a player, he seems to only be improving every season. He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013, and averaged 14/8/4/2 blocks that year with a 56% TS%. His overall numbers dipped this season as he played part of it injured, but his final two months were more indicative of his play. From February 11 to the end of the season, Gasol averaged 16/8/4 on 54% TS% and with a 17% AST%. Basically, you can count on him to do all of the little things a team needs to win. He's a souped-up Anderson Varejao without the injury history.
He's exactly what the Cavaliers need within their team concept. As mentioned earlier, he'd be the perfect pick-and-roll partner for Irving (and Dion Waiters, for that matter). He'd space out the lane, which would help the Cavs' guards finish at a better rate around the rim than their atrocious percentage this season. But more importantly, he's one of the few guys that could allow Tristan Thompson to flourish next to him. His strengths are Thompson's weaknesses, and vice versa. Gasol has enough of a jump shot to make up for Thompson's lack of one. Also, his ability to protect the rim makes up for Thompson's inability to do so. Finally, Thompson's skill on the defensive boards would fit exceptionally well next to Gasol, as that's probably his biggest weakness as a player.
It's a great idea in theory that would be made even better by a Luol Deng re-signing, which could create something of a Memphis East or a newer version of the Pacers depending on the coach hired. With Irving at the helm instead of Conley, that team just might have enough to luck into a title if everything goes right with player development. However, the question becomes is it worth passing up the potential upside of the first overall pick by trading for Gasol and somewhat limiting your ceiling. The odds that the first overall pick ends up as good as Marc Gasol are below 50%. But if that player gets there, the Cavs become a perennial title contender instead of having a shortened window for Finals contention in the East. Before we get there though, we have to discuss his contract situation as he only has one year remaining and the two factors are intertwined.
Without a contract extension guarantee, you can't make this deal. Period. But if you could convince Gasol to sign a three year extension at $51 million -- guaranteeing the Cavs four years of Gasol -- that would make this trade considerable. So now comes the question of whether it's worth it to mortgage a not small, but not exactly large chance at Thunder-like perennial contender-ship. To me, I probably would decide to just make the pick and pray it worked out. I don't think that the Cavs would be a title contender in Year 1 of this deal, as there would probably be a defensive learning curve with new personnel and a new coach.
And that's pretty much what you'd need to be in this circumstance for me to make a deal: immediate title contenders. Sure, they'd probably at least be Eastern Conference contenders in Years 2 and 3. Having said that, then Gasol turns 32 after that, which may begin a decline. So is that worth it?
So while Gasol is one of the best possible short term fixes for this team, the team probably can't afford to trade the pick for him and have the pick end up better than him. The team's upside just simply isn't high enough with Gasol to justify a move, in my opinion. But, I can probably be swayed on this one given Gasol's fit on the team, his clean injury history, and his high level that's in its prime.
Next up in this series is Joakim Noah.