The Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol have formalized an agreement we all knew was coming. As reported by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, the 30-year-old All-NBA First Team center and the Grizzlies have reached a five-year, $110-million contract that includes an early termination option between the fourth and fifth seasons. If Gasol does not exercise that option (or leave the franchise through other means), he will stick with the team through the 2019-20 season, at which point he will be 35 years old.
Tabbed as one of the best available 2015 free agents for several years, Gasol opted not to consider long-reported interest from teams including San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks and took no meetings with prospective suitors. Similarly, there was little doubt that the Grizzlies would offer him anything but a five-year max-level deal. As Woj noted in his report, Gasol attended high school in Memphis while his older brother Pau played for the Grizzlies and considers the city his home. The only question was when this deal would be reported or announced.
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This contract was predictable in part because it's so sensible for both sides. Gasol serves as the Grizzlies' best player at both ends. He's a versatile offensive player who can score and facilitate in equal measure, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate as linchpin of one of the NBA's most impressive units, and versatile enough to adjust to the needs of many different lineups. He is essential to the Grizzlies' grit-and-grind identity, a star so valuable that it's genuinely impossible to imagine the team succeeding without him. He will probably not be worth a $22-million annual salary when he turns 35, but the max-level rules make Gasol a bargain after an All-NBA season. Plus, he wants to be in Memphis, which matters to a franchise that has never been considered a major free-agent destination.
This news is great for the Grizzlies if only because the alternative would have created so many problems for a team that still harbors championship aspirations. Yet the expected nature of Gasol's return also deflects some attention away from the positive and towards what Memphis still needs. While the Grizzlies' two wins over the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in the West semifinals displayed the potential of their relatively old-fashioned style, the three series-closing losses exposed a lack of versatility and athleticism. With Gasol's new deal never really in doubt, it's arguable that new additions such as active big man Brandan Wright will do more to help the Grizzlies next season if only because they introduce new wrinkles to a team in need of them. While Memphis absolutely needs Gasol's presence, the greatest impact of this deal may be in ensuring that they will maintain a foundation upon which they must continue to build.
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