Thunder emerge as potential frontrunner for Pau Gasol

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

The Spanish big man is drawing interest from Oklahoma City and could help its offense, but is there enough money available to give him a competitive offer?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are not generally the kind of team that makes big free-agent splashes, but a report from Marc Stein suggests they've reached out to both Pau Gasol and Mike Miller:

More surprisingly, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne suggests they have become the frontrunner for Gasol's services, with several other teams, including the Bulls, in pursuit.

Gasol's name is the more interesting of the two, so let's consider the possibility that he could join the Thunder.

Why this makes sense

Oklahoma City's offense is powerful, but not especially fluid. The Thunder fail to generate much ball or player movement, and that hurts against elite defenses like the Spurs. Gasol's passing and unselfishness would help unlock some of those qualities and allow the Thunder to have more sets with multiple options. He'd also likely replace Kendrick Perkins up front, which would be a major upgrade.

From Gasol's perspective, the Thunder will provide him the best chance to win another ring, even more than Miami, who is also pursuing him.

Why this doesn't make sense

There's a reason the Thunder rarely make splashy free-agent signings: they have so much money locked into their stars and have thus far steadfastly refused to go over the luxury tax. Because of that, they are limited in what they can pay Gasol. Even using the full mid-level exception of $5.5 million or so a season will get them perilously close to the projected $77 million luxury tax line and leave very little room to fill out the roster. Gasol is declining, but he should get better offers, even from Miami and especially from the Lakers.

Likelihood

I would be very surprised if Gasol ended up in Oklahoma City, but the second report makes it seem more likely than originally thought. Chances are Oklahoma City may very well be interested, but not in a practical way that would actually get the Spanish big man to town. That said, this rumor's likelihood rises from a 1 to a 4 out of 10.

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