The Los Angeles Lakers have ended what has been a historically terrible season. Going into the off-season, Kupchak and company will have their hands full deciding how to steer this franchise out of the rocks that have become its recent home. One of the major decisions Laker management will have to decide on is the price they're willing to pay to keep Pau wearing purple and gold. I'll try to list a few of the factors that the front office should be considering as they make their decision.
Gasol's numbers have certainly been dipping the past couple of seasons. According to Basketball-Refernce.Com, his win-shares (a measurement of how many wins can be solely attributed to his performance) are down the past couple years to 3.7 during the '12-'13 campaign, and 3 this year. These numbers represent a significant drop from his first 4 years with the Lakers when he averaged 12 win shares. To put these stats in perspective, Gasol's all time highest win-shares for LA was during the '10-'11 season, when he accounted for 14.7 wins, the second highest in the league behind Lebron James who provided the Heat with 15.6 wins.
There are multiple factors that weigh into Pau's decreased performance. Firstly, the drop can partly be attributed to an overall decrease in the number of season wins the Lakers have had each of the past two seasons. However when the numbers are taken as a percentage of the overall team wins, there is still a significant drop in production. In the past two seasons, Gasol has only accounted, on average, for 9.6 percent of LA's total wins, while during his previous four seasons with the Purple and Gold, he accounted for 21.68 percent.
Explaining the Change
The chief reason for the Spaniard's decrease in performance is Coach Mike D'Antoni. Since taking the helm, it has been no secret that D'Antoni has marginalized Pau. Under the new head coach, Gasol has been placed in a variety of roles, none of which have played very well to his skill set. Pau is a low-post, offensive minded power forward, who with the backup of a rim-protecting center, can also put up solid defensive numbers. The Lakers' best run during the short-lived, Dwight Howard era was when D'Antoni put both big men on the floor and allowed Gasol to work inside. During that late season stretch, Pau won his match-ups (meaning he had a higher efficiency rating than his opponent) 57.14 percent of the time, as opposed to the rest of the season when he only won 44.44 percent of the time.
Age is one of the concerns that Laker management must consider when deciding on an offer to Gasol. The former All-Star will turn 34 this summer. Any deal that is offered to Pau should be on a short-term basis, preferably two years. Hopefully, the front office will have learned their lesson about hiring the NBA's elderly for too long after the recent disaster with Steve Nash's contract.
Another reason to keep it low is understanding what Gasol's motivations would be were he to stay in LA. In a recent blog post, Gasol stated that, "If there's anything or anyone who could make me stay it's Kobe Bryant. I'd stay for him, but there'd have to be significant changes. I've said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game." Bryant is only slated to return for another two seasons, therefore keeping Gasol's contract aligned with Kobe's would probably keep him happy, while also preventing management from over-investing into an aging asset.
What Pau Brings
For the first time in a long time, the Purple and Gold have a high, first-round draft pick. Although there is plenty of speculation about who the Lakers will be looking to add, it is likely that they'll be wanting to beef up their front court. Gasol still has gas in the tank for a few more great years. More importantly though, he can provide critical guidance to the incoming freshman, and even better, he'll do it for less. According to the man himself, money is not a prime concern. Keeping a low price on Pau is a crucial objective for the Lakers as they eye the free-agents of 2015 and 2016.
Hopefully, all of this translates into a two-year, $13-15 million deal that benefits both sides. Keep in mind, all of this doesn't mean much if the Lakers decide to keep D'Antoni, who will significantly decrease Gasol's production and desire to return.
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