Marc Gasol

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Conference Finals

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at some of the players currently in the conference finals:

DeMarcus Cousins, Warriors, 28, C (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $5.3MM deal in 2018
Cousins made a snap decision on the second day of free agency last July to bet on himself and chase a ring. There’s a very good chance he’ll get the latter; as for landing a big multi-year contract this summer, that’s a major question mark. He’s unlikely to play against Portland due to the quad injury he suffered in the opening round. There’s no guarantee he’d be back for the Finals. Cousins played well after returning from his one-year rehab for an Achilles tear but it’s fair to question whether the injuries will continue to pile up for the big man.

Seth Curry, Trail Blazers, 28, SG (Up) — Signed to a one-year, $2.8MM deal in 2018
Seeing the Curry brothers go at each other has added to the entertainment value of the conference finals. Seth didn’t fare so well in Game 1 (three points on 1-for-7 shooting) but he was a major factor in Game 2 with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and four steals. After missing all of last season with a left leg injury, the less-heralded Curry has proven to be a valuable rotation player. The Pistons reportedly have him high on their list of free agent targets. They certainly won’t be alone — career 43.9% 3-point shooters tend to attract a crowd.

Marc Gasol, Raptors, 34, C (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $113.2MM deal in 2015
Gasol said earlier this month he’s undecided whether to exercise his $25.6MM player option. At this stage of his career, Gasol is probably more focused on being a good fit and feeling comfortable than his bank account. But he’d be losing many millions if he doesn’t opt in. Quite frankly, he’s no longer a $25MM player. More than half of his field-goal attempts in the playoffs have come from beyond the arc and he’s not making them. He shot 26.9% from deep against the Sixers in the conference semis and went 2-for-7 in Game 1 against the Bucks. He’s scored in single digits in 10 of 13 games this postseason.

Brook Lopez, Bucks, 31, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $3.4MM deal in 2018
Following a series of forgettable conference semifinal outings, Lopez blew up in Game 1 against Toronto. He piled up 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to carry the Bucks to an early lead in the series. Lopez was arguably the biggest bargain in free agency last summer. He was an ideal fit for the Bucks’ high-powered attack as a ‘stretch five.’ His advanced defensive numbers this season were the best of his career. Milwaukee has other free agency concerns, most notably Khris Middleton, but re-signing Lopez should be a high priority as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Marc Gasol Undecided On Future With Raptors

New addition Marc Gasol is fitting in with the Raptors, though this could be his only season with the club. The 34-year-old has a player option on his deal worth approximately $25.6MM for the 2019/20 campaign and he has yet to make a decision on his future.

“We’ll see when we get there,” Gasol said (via Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report). “It would be pointless for me to say anything now. Not because I’m hiding anything, but I would be lying, it’s just impossible to know. We’ll have to see what makes sense for everyone. You can’t weigh things on a scale before you have everything to weigh. I much rather focus on the present and make the most of it.”

[RELATED: Five 2019/20 Player Option Decisions To Watch]

The center didn’t ask for his trade to the Raptors but the team has grown on him.

“It’s really well-run,” Gasol said. “All first class.”

Gasol still misses Memphis, the place where he began his NBA career as a second-round prospect. The Grizzlies weren’t in a position to compete at a championship level when they dealt his brother, Pau, to the Lakers and acquired him in exchange for a package that originally brought the younger Gasol to Memphis. They likely won’t sniff contention in the near future, which was part of the reason they made the decision to send Gasol north at this year’s trade deadline.

According to Weitzman, Gasol and Mike Conley assured Grizzlies owner Robert Pera that they could turn around the franchise’s fortunes with some help. However, the team was on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season and Pera could clearly see the writing on the wall. A few weeks later—just hours before the trade deadline—Pera called Gasol to tell him that the Grizzlies and Raptors had completed a deal.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri also spoke with Gasol on February 7. The executive told Gasol that Toronto was “going for it” – in reference to a title – and he believed Gasol could help.

Toronto’s path to a championship has never been clearer. LeBron James is no longer in their way. Kawhi Leonard, who is reportedly warming up to the idea of staying in Toronto, is arguably having the best postseason for any player in franchise history.

Gasol’s arrival gave the Raptors something they were missing. Among other things, it gave them a big man who could battle in the post with the likes of Sixers star Joel Embiid. “[Gasol has] changed who we are,” coach Nick Nurse said. Gasol recognizes the impact that he can make without being the core of the offense.

“We’re not talking about something negative here,” Gasol said of being traded. “As you get older, you understand that this is a game, that we’re fortunate to have a great life. It’s just something impactful.”

Eastern Notes: Gasol, Hawks Workouts, Pistons, Williams

Raptors center Marc Gasol is excited about the prospect of playing for Spain once again in the World Cup at China this summer, according to a FIBA press release. Spain is ranked No. 2 by FIBA. In his last international appearance, he helped Spain to a third-place finish at FIBA EuroBasket 2017.

“I’m closer to the end of my international career than to the beginning, but the motivation is the same that I’ve had since I started playing with the national team,” the Raptors’ big man said. “I enjoy the moments with the guys, from the practice to the camaraderie and the competition. I want to help the national team try to have good runs and win more medals and titles before I retire from international duty. I take it step by step and my first focus after the NBA season is on the next FIBA World Cup.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hawks are bringing in forwards Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Donta Hall (Alabama), Chris Silva (South Carolina) and Tre’Shawn Thurman (Nevada) and guards Kyle Allman and Markell Johnson (North Carolina State) for predraft workouts on Tuesday, according to a team press release.
  • All members of the Pistons’ coaching staff as well as their front office executives are expected to return, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit reached the playoffs for just the second time since 2009 under first-year coach Dwane Casey and was swept by Milwaukee in the opening round.
  • Magic co-founder and Hall of Famer Pat Williams announced his retirement from the team on Monday after 51 years in the NBA, according to a team press release. Williams, who turns 79 this week, was GM of the Bulls, Hawks and Sixers as well as Orlando. He was promoted to senior VP of the Magic in 1996.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Dudley, Gasol, Williams

The Sixers failed to contain the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam on Saturday, two major reasons why the team lost Game 1 at Scotiabank Arena, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Leonard and Siakam combined to score 74 points, shooting 28-for-38 from the floor and 6-of-11 from 3-point range.

“Two really good players,” said Joel Embiid, who shot just 5-of-18. “Their two best players showed up. I didn’t tonight and I have to do a better job.

“I have a lot of respect for those guys. They showed up. … They did a good. Next time maybe just like they are doing to me and double-teaming me. Throw some double-teams and have a better game plan.”

Philadelphia wound up losing the game 108-95, holding just a 39% shooting mark with 14 turnovers. They can still steal homecourt advantage by bouncing back for Game 2 on Monday, though the team recognizes how important is is to slow down the Raptors’ top two offensive threats.

Besides Leonard and Siakam, Toronto was supported by Kyle Lowry (nine points, eight assists), Marc Gasol (eight points with tremendous defense) and Serge Ibaka (seven points, six rebounds off the bench) to help seal the Game 1 victory.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Veteran NBA forward Jared Dudley has interest in joining the Celtics this summer, a league source told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Dudley, who’s coming off a successful season with the Nets, is scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency on July 1. Dudley turns 34 this summer and averaged 4.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 20.7 minutes per game with Brooklyn this year, shooting 35% from 3-point range.
  • Marc Gasol is the long-awaited final piece to the Raptors‘ puzzle, Michael Pina of SB Nation contends. Toronto made a surprising deal for Gasol prior to the trade deadline, acquiring a veteran center capable of giving strong play on both ends of the floor. Head coach Nick Nurse has sported a starting lineup that consists of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Gasol this postseason.
  • Celtics rookie Robert Williams denied receiving money at Texas A&M, despite his name surfacing in a Thursday testimony by financial adviser Marty Blazer that he was given money by agent Christian Dawkins and assistant coach Amir Abdul-Rahim in 2017. “I’ve been saying, never took anything from anybody during my college career,” Williams said on Friday, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports. “Honestly, just trying to focus on these playoffs. I tend to stop social media because it gets to you during playoff time, but, like I said, never took anything from anybody. Hope this goes away as fast possible.”

Hornets Notes: Batum, Walker, Offseason Plans

Hornets coach James Borrego isn’t sure how Nicolas Batum fits into his plans for next season, Borrego admits to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Batum was placed in a variety of roles but had another disappointing season and was briefly benched by Borrego. The team’s highest-paid player has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his contract, making him virtually untradeable unless Charlotte sweetens the pot with a first-round pick or young player. Bonnell suggests making Batum a utility player where he sees minutes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

We have more on the Hornets:

  • Unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker was unhappy that an attempt to acquire veteran center Marc Gasol from Memphis before the February trade deadline fell through, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman). The outline of the proposed deal would have sent out center Bismack Biyombo, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick for Gasol. Memphis instead chose to make a deal with playoff-bound Toronto.
  • If Walker re-signs with the club, Jeremy Lamb will likely be a cap casualty, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out in his offseason preview. Getting a commitment from Walker would push Charlotte past the luxury tax threshold. Re-signing Lamb for a conservative estimate of $11MM in the first year would trigger an approximate $27.5MM in additional luxury tax penalties. The team also has to make some hard decisions on non-guaranteed contracts, including Tony Parker‘s deal. The Hornets are unlikely to give forward Frank Kaminsky a $4.5MM qualifying offer before the June 30 deadline, Marks adds.
  • Walker’s chances of returning are pegged at 30% by Bonnell in his player-by-player breakdown of the roster. Those odds will rise only if GM Mitch Kupchak can pull off a blockbuster deal before free agency to entice Walker to stay.

Eastern Notes: Carter-Williams, Gasol, Olynyk, Ennis

Michael Carter-Williams has thrived in his new role with the Magic, adding defense, size and a much-needed boost of energy off the bench.

Carter-Williams, who won the Rookie of the Year award during the 2013/14 season, has since bounced around the league with multiple teams and largely failed to find a concrete role. That is, of course, until Orlando took a chance on him with two 10-day contracts last month.

“It’s great. It’s a blessing. I can only thank everybody here for giving me the chance to come in and show what I can do,” Carter-Williams said, according to Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “I always believed in myself … just a matter of time until I got the chance.”

The Magic are 8-2 since signing Carter-Williams to a first 10-day contract. His hard work paid off in his limited amount of time with the team, and the 27-year-old happily signed a rest-of-season contract with the organization on April 4.

“It definitely feels good, I can’t lie,” Carter-Williams said. “Everybody is playing well … everyone’s been solid. We’ve all had big moments in those [eight] wins.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:

  • Marc Gasol has quickly adjusted to his new role with the Raptors, positively impacting the team on both ends of the floor, Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star writes. Gasol grew acclimated to his new teammates and play style quicker than most expected, with Toronto holding a 17-8 record since acquiring him. “It’s just weird that he stepped in day one and he was right on point … He doesn’t need a learning curve,” teammate Fred VanVleet said of Gasol. “He stepped in from day one and was able to adjust to pretty much everything we did. So that just speaks to his basketball IQ.”
  • Heat forward Kelly Olynyk has kept tabs on the Canadian men’s national team, most notably the team’s head coaching search ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts on August 31, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. Olynyk, who was born in Canada, will likely play for the team this summer. “It’s not a thing where we need someone to micromanage a game and do all that stuff and trick other teams,” he said of the team’s coaching search. “We have the talent, we have the abilities we just need someone to help us put them to the test.”
  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic ponders how the Sixers could adjust with the latest injury to forward James Ennis. Ennis, who’s averaged 5.3 points and 15.6 minutes off the Sixers’ bench in 18 games, sustained a right quad contusion last week that’ll likely force him to miss at least part of the first round. Jonathon Simmons could receive more playing time in Ennis’ absence, with the playoffs just one week away.

Atlantic Notes: Zion, Raptors, Loyd, Moreland, Sixers

The Knicks apparently won’t have to worry about Zion Williamson demanding a trade if they win the lottery. Williamson said on Friday that he would “love to play” for the Knicks if they drafted him, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. The Duke freshman made the remark during a Final Four press conference while accepting the Oscar Robertson (Player of the Year) Award. He went on to say he’d be happy to go wherever he was drafted.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors made a number of cost-cutting moves during the course of the season that saved an approximate $18MM, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. Waiving Lorenzo Brown, dumping the salaries of Malachi Richardson and Greg Monroe, trading three players for Marc Gasol, getting Gasol to waive his trade kicker, and signing players to 10-day contracts to meet roster requirements all contributed to a healthier bottom line.
  • The Raptors still have an open roster spot heading toward the playoffs and will likely sign a player, Murphy writes in the same story. Guard Jordan Loyd’s two-way contract could be converted to a standard contract and center Eric Moreland, who recently played on a 10-day contract, is another candidate. Veteran center Marcin Gortat could also be in play.
  • The 76ers believe their powerhouse starting lineup will be the difference in the playoffs, even though they haven’t played much together, Michael Lee of The Athletic reports. They’ve gone 8-2 in games that Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler have all been available to play. “Although that starting group hasn’t played that much basketball together, especially relative to the other teams, the excitement is to take the talent we have and quickly try to maximize that,” coach Brett Brown said.

Atlantic Notes: Gasol, Brown, Knox, Fizdale

The Raptors‘ big deadline acquisition was veteran Marc Gasol, bolstering Toronto’s frontcourt entering the final stretch of the regular season. Thus far, Gasol has seen nearly equal time as a starter (six games) and as a reserve (seven games).

In those 13 games, Gasol has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG for the Raptors, well below his career rates. After spending his first 10-and-a-half seasons in Memphis, the big man is still getting used to his new team and teammates, as Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca writes.

“It’s an adjustment. I think it’s an adjustment for me, an adjustment for my teammates, for the coaches,” Gasol said. “You know, you play a certain way and it’s hard to change certain things on the fly. But you can’t try to force the issue. You have to organically improve and I’m here to work and do my best with a very positive mindset every day. It’s about what’s best for the team and how we can take another step at both ends of the floor.”

While the three-time All-Star figures out his role, the Raptors are focused on the postseason, clinching a spot in the Eastern Conference last week. Heading into that stretch, Gasol’s experience will be a factor but he does not want the attention to be solely on him.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Gasol said. “Whatever role you’re given, it’s about having a good mindset. It’s not so much about starting — it’s about finishing games. It’s about the team playing well, and contributing to that. I know now that I’m going to have to start for the next few games, probably. And that contributes to a routine and a habit and a little bit of consistency. That helps you get that out of your mind. But I definitely don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jaylen Brown has embraced his role off the bench to the Celtics‘ benefit despite being a starter and the team’s second-leading scorer a season ago, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. “He’s done a good job of embracing that,” Boston head coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s done a good job of not letting that affect his aggressiveness or his game.”
  • It has been an up and down season for Knicks rookie Kevin Knox who had been in a slump since December. Knox is appreciative of the rebuilding Knicks’ patience with his development but head coach David Fizdale has a strategy to help him improve, Marc Berman of New York Post writes.“His strength is going to be a big, big thing, fine-tuning his shooting, solidifying his post game,” Fizdale said. “Obviously, defensively I’m going to be all over him about taking another step forward, about being a playmaker, a shotblocker, a guy who can take a challenge one on one and really slide his feet against the best attackers.”
  • Speaking of Fizdale, earlier we relayed the head coach’s confidence in the Knicks doing well with free agents this summer.

Southeast Notes: Portis, Walker, Briscoe, Vucevic

The Wizards and Bobby Portis will decide this summer if they want their relationship to be long-term, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Acquired from the Bulls at the trade deadline, the 24-year-old power forward will be a restricted free agent in July. Portis is posting career highs with 15.3 PPG and 8.9 RPG in his nine games with Washington and is enjoying his new surroundings.

“Everything is pretty good, man. I like being a Wizard. I love being here,” he said. “I think this is a good fit for me through and through.”

However, Portis’ return next season isn’t a sure thing. Thomas Bryant will also be a restricted free agent, and Hughes doesn’t expect the front office to invest heavily in both. Washington will also have decisions to make on free agents Trevor Ariza, Wesley Johnson and Jeff Green, who will all be unrestricted.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Even if the Hornets can re-sign star guard Kemba Walker, there’s no guarantee they can ever surround him with enough talent to become a contender, observes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. GM Mitch Kupchak made inquiries about Bradley Beal, Marc Gasol and Harrison Barnes prior to the trade deadline, but wasn’t able to acquire any of them. Bonnell notes that if Charlotte commits about $200MM to Walker over the next five years, it will become tougher than ever for the team to add a second star.
  • Isaiah Briscoe‘s journey to the NBA took a detour through Estonia, but that experience has given him a toughness that benefits the Magic, writes John Denton of NBA.com. Briscoe was passed over in the 2017 draft and had to spend a year in Europe before receiving an NBA opportunity. “Isaiah is a tough-minded kid, undrafted and went overseas to get to the league, so he has a chip on his shoulder, and he has that mindset,’’ said teammate D.J. Augustin. “He’s a big, physical body for a point guard and he uses it out there well.’’
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic hasn’t decided if World Cup basketball will be part of his summer plans, he said in an interview with TrendBasket (translated by Sportando). Vucevic indicated that Orlando’s postseason fate could determine whether he suits up for Montenegro. “I have not decided yet,” he said. “First we have to finish the season where we are trying to make the playoffs. We are focused on making the playoffs now. I will be free agent when the season ends. I am going to be busy for a while. I hope my situation will be clearer in July.”

Raptors Notes: Gasol, DeRozan, Ujiri

Leading into the trade deadline, the Raptors‘ biggest splash was the acquisition of veteran center Marc Gasol. The three-time All-Star has appeared in four games with Toronto since the trade, all off the bench.

After over a decade in Memphis, Gasol has had to not only adjust to a new team but also playing in a new country and learning a new playbook. Speaking to Sportsnet.ca’s Dave Zarum, Gasol explained how he has adjusted to his new surroundings.

“We’ve had three games with three different point guards [Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw, and Jeremy Lin]. That alone is an adjustment within the adjustment that you have to make on the fly,” Gasol said. “Thankfully, I know now 100% all of the plays. OK, 90% all of the plays. But I know them pretty well, so now it’s trying to understand what the team is looking for. How can I be effective within the flow of the game?”

Gasol admitted that it was tough to part with the Grizzlies but the opportunity to compete for a championship eases that burden. In his four appearances, the Spaniard has played just under 20 minutes per game, averaging 8.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG. As he becomes more acclimated to his new digs, Gasol expects his contributions to follow suit.

“I’m not a rah-rah guy, I’m not somebody who will get into anybody’s business,” Gasol said. “I’m pretty laid back and I stay in my lane a lot. But I want to win. At the end of the day it’s about winning and competing and making this team the best possible.”

Check out more Raptors notes below:
  • DeMar DeRozan played his first game at the Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) as a visitor on Friday with the Spurs. The former face of the franchise has detailed his roller-coaster emotions following last summer’s trade but his return to Toronto was about acceptance rather than vengeance, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright writes.
  • The Raptors have been a perennial postseason team that has been on the verge of a potentially championship-winning run. However, under Masai Ujiri this season, Toronto has shown the willingness to go for it with shrewd moves to put the franchise on the brink of a title, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders opines.
  • Speaking of Ujiri — the first African top executive of any of North America’s top four major sports leagues — his initiative to help those on his home continent has become part of his basketball goals, ESPN’s Anthony Olivieri writes.