Strengths and Weaknesses
Despite an injury riddled and disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol had himself a nice season. The Spaniard barely missed out on another double-double season: he averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks in 60 games. All of which happened to be along his career averages of 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 blocks.
Even at 33, Gasol proved he can still play at a high level. He's still one of the better skilled and versatile bigs in the league, especially on the offensive end. His ability to score from inside and out, create, and pass the ball are still a rare combination in the league. He's at his best with his back to the basket, where he can utilize his his various post moves, soft touch, and creative passing.
Though many consider Gasol soft, which resulted in the nickname "Ga-Soft" coming alive, he's a much better defender than many give him credit for. With his great length and anticipation, he is still a serviceable shot blocker, one-on-one post defender and rebounder.
As good of a one-on-one defender as Gasol is, the same can't be said about his team defense. Due to his increasing lack of mobility, he has a tendency to either be slow recovering or just in the wrong spot on help side. With Father Time always a factor, this aspect of his game could continue to diminish.
He also has a tendency to lack aggression on the offensive end. While Gasol does possess a good mid-range and decent 3-point shot, he still is at his best around the basket. When he's settling for jump shots or being overly passive, it can be a hindrance to his team.
Finally, leaving things in the locker room aren't exactly his forte. He's publicly voiced his displeasure of his role multiple times; something that could wear on his team.
Fit With The Mavericks
Since Dirk Nowitzki, Samuel Dalembert, and Brandan Wright are the only bigs under contract (assuming, again, that Dirk re-signs), adding depth to the frontcourt will be an offseason emphasis.
On the offensive end, Gasol and Nowitzki could be a great offensive tandem. With Nowitzki's ability to spread the court and excel from the perimeter, Gasol would be free to play around the basket. Also, with Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis handling the ball, Gasol should have plenty of opportunities for easy jumpers, layups and dunks in the pick-and-roll/pop sets.
Gasol also gives the Mavs a power forward to have on the court when Nowitzki is out of the game; a role Shawn Marion has occupied over the seasons but could be lost if Marion signs elsewhere. Wright could surely benefit from Gasol's ability to pass the ball.
Finally, whether or not Nowitzki is on the court, Gasol gives a jump shooting dependent team a different dimension. Outside of Ellis and the "Wright Stuff," this past season the Mavs struggled to get easy baskets around the rim. Gasol should supply a needed post presence on the offensive end, especially when the well is dry for the Mavs shooters.
While Nowitzki and Gasol may be a thing of beauty on offense, they could be a dreaded thing to watch on defense. Over the seasons we've come to a realization that athletic, long, and shot-blocking centers are the best fit next to the slow-footed Nowitzki. Safe to say that Gasol doesn't exactly fit that bill.
The greatest negative for Gasol isn't his defense, but his durability. Over the last two seasons he's played just 60 and 49 games.
With free agency offering a shallow center position, the Mavs may have no choice but to go with the offensive minded center. If so, they acquire a much needed post presence, who should easily fit into the free-flow system, and more importantly, limit Dirk's minutes as he enters the twilight of his career.