As I mentioned in my mailbag a couple days ago (even before the Afflalo trade), the Nuggets should seriously consider making a run at Marc Gasol. The trade the Nuggets completed yesterday puts the team in an excellent position to land the 7’1” Baby Gasol. This would in turn put the Nuggets in an excellent position to contend for an NBA title.
The Nuggets clearly need another offensively capable big man to complement Martin and Birdman’s defensive abilities, as well as take some of the heat off of Nene in the offensive paint. Marc Gasol is perfectly suited to fulfill this role. He is long, strong, and down to get the friction on (thanks, Sir Mix a Lot) in the low post. He has good strength at 265 pounds, makes powerful moves underneath the basket, is effective at drawing contact from defenders en route to the rim, and is a willing passer who looks to kick the ball out to an open teammate before taking his own shot from down low. He also possesses a nice right-handed hook shot.
Acquiring the Spaniard would finally give the Nuggets the size to push around the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, Celtics, and Magic. Adding Gasol would also make the Nuggets a much more versatile and less predictable team. Karl could start Gasol, shift Nene over to power forward, and bring Martin off the bench against a big team like the Lakers. Against smaller, quicker teams, such as the Spurs, Gasol come off the bench to spell Martin when the team needed height and/or an offensive boost in the post.
The 24-year-old has plenty of room to grow, and he’ll undoubtedly improve once Steve Hess gets him in the gym. Seriously, think about how much Hess helped Nene’s game. Gasol would be an absolute beast at a leaner, stronger 265 pounds.
Let’s take a quick look at some numbers. In fact, who better to compare Marc Gasol to than his big bro, perennial all-star Pau Gasol…
Per 40 minutes, Pau averaged 19.1 points 9.7 total rebounds and 3.1 offensive rebounds, 2.3 blocks, .5 steals, and 2.9 assists during his rookie NBA season. Last year was Marc’s first season in the NBA and he put up some pretty solid numbers himself. Marc’s per 40-minute stat line reads as follows: 15.5 points, 9.6 total rebounds and 3.3 offensive rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.04 steals, and 2.2 assists. Though Pau scored a few more points, Marc still held his own. One must keep in mind that Marc was the Grizzlies third scoring option last year behind OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay. Even LeBron’s numbers would dip if he played in a starting-five that included Mayo and Gay. Also, remember that Pau was the go-to-guy during his first year in Memphis. Every play ran through him. Therefore, Marc did a pretty solid job by managing 11.7 points 7.4 rebounds 1.1 blocks in 30 minutes per game last season. Those numbers are exactly what the Nuggets would need out of him. Furthermore, his defense would improve while playing for a better team and coach in Denver.
It is honestly a godsend that Gasol plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis GM Chris Wallace literally gives away Gasols to other Western Conference teams. Furthermore, Gasol became expendable last month when the Grizzlies drafted 7’3” C Hasheem Thabeet, and followed this selection by trading SF/SG Quentin Richardson to the Clippers for PF Zach Randolph. These subsequent moves leave Memphis with a crowded big man rotation. The franchise wants to develop Thabeet by keeping him on the court, Z-Bo is known to erupt if he does not receive ample playing time, and the team drafted 21-year-old PF Darrell Arthur last year. Arthur, the gifted former Jayhawk, played effectively in 19 minutes per game last season, and the team does not wish to suppress his development by slashing his minutes this year. Not to mention Memphis still has 7’2” Iranian center Hamed Haddadi on the roster.
The Grizzlies’ offseason decisions also leave them devoid of smaller frontcourt reserves, shooting guards, and players in general. There are only eight players currently on the team’s roster (nine if you count Hakim Warrick, who will likely return at the QE). This is where the Nuggets come in. The Nuggets could re-sign Kleiza to the QE and then promptly trade him, Steven Hunter’s expiring contract, and Sonny Weems in exchange for Gasol. Both teams win in this trade.
Kleiza offers the Grizzlies instant offense from the bench, and is an upgrade over GF Marko Jaric. He is a better athlete than Jaric and more versatile because at 6’8” Kleiza can play 2-4. He is also a valuable (and cheap!) insurance policy behind OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay, which the team needs now that Quentin Richardson is off to LA. The Grizzlies also receive an attractive $3.7 million expiring contract; the franchise can also increase its cap flexibility for the summer of 2010 should the front office choose to let Kleiza walk at the end of next season. Sonny Weems is a D-League star, who would likely blossom while playing significant minutes in Memphis since they lack shooting guards. This trade therefore gives Memphis much needed bench scoring, lands young talent at the right positions, and frees up at least $3.7 million in cap room next summer. Heck, throw in a 2011 1st round draft pick and if necessary a 2nd rounder to ensure Chris Wallace jumps at the deal. Landing Gasol at $3.3 million is far too rewarding a possibility to pass up.
Plus, it would be ideal to acquire Gasol at this stage of his career. His contract, like Martin’s, expires after the 2011 season. The Nuggets should add Gasol now so that he develops solid chemistry with Carmelo, JR, and Nene in hopes of keeping this nucleus together long-term with the cap space the Nuggets will have once the Great Martin Contract ends.
I’m going crazy here. The Nuggets and Grizzlies are two teams that need to make deals, each team possesses the necessary pieces, and Chris Wallace is involved. If anyone besides Mitch Kupchak can convince Wallace to give him Marc Gasol, it has to be NBA Executive of the Year Mark Warkentein.
This potential trade leaves the Nuggets with 11 players on the roster (I’ve included Birdman and Lawson). The Nuggets could follow up this trade by using the remainder of the MLE and/or minimum contract offers to fill their 4 remaining roster spots. The Nuggets still need a third point guard, and they should re-sign Anthony Carter to the minimum to fill this role. He knows the offense, is a good character guy, and Karl likes him. The Nuggets should then consider signing SF Matt Barnes. Barnes solidifies the Nuggets’ defense and 3-point shooting, and his presence could prove to be invaluable if Balkman and Afflalo are not ready to log playoff minutes; he would still end up costing at least $1.2 million less than Kleiza. The Nuggets could also offer this money to PF Tim Thomas, who was bought out by the Chicago Bulls earlier today. I discussed the merits of acquiring Thomas in my July 2nd column.
It is also true that the Nuggets possess some talent on their summer league team. The Nuggets therefore might consider signing a couple of these players to fill out the roster. Kareem Rush’s 3-point shooting and 6’6” body would be a nice addition, and Coby Karl is a smart player.
This deal makes far too much sense for it not to go down. As a fan, I cannot think of any offseason move that would excite me more than pairing Nene with a young 7-foot beast like Marc Gasol. Plus, the move helps Kroenke’s balance sheet because adding Gasol would increase the Nuggets’ international marketability. Come on, E. Stanley. He isn’t even that expensive. You can bank on Marc Gasol. Do it for the fans, por favor?
Food for thought:
Is anyone else tired of JR Smith? I know I am getting there. The Nuggets should consider trading JR Smith if he is what it takes to land Marc Gasol. JR is a brilliant (and lucky) shooter. And yes, his explosive offense did single-handedly win the Nuggets a few games last season. However, let’s not forget that JR is currently sitting in a jail cell because he ran a traffic light and killed his best friend. JR claims he has grown up, but I don’t buy it. He appeared on a live internet feed during an early morning traffic stop in New Jersey three weeks ago. Smith and Eddie Curry, an NBA prima donna who needs to get his life together and lose enough weight to run up and down the court, were passengers in the car that had been pulled over. The NBA players joked that they would give $1,000 to the first person in the SUV to run out of the stopped vehicle and tap the hood of the police cruiser. Way to go, Young Rich. Ask yourself, “Are these the actions of a true champion?” I think not. JR is currently too foolish and immature to play on a team destined to win an NBA title. I just do not see a team that he is a part of winning a ring. But the Grizzlies will not compete for a ring anytime soon and JR’s wild game would certainly sell some tickets in Memphis. The Nuggets might actually grow more disciplined, hungry, and competitive if they picked up Matt Barnes and dumped JR to land Gasol. Just something to consider…