The Spurs are reportedly signing free agent Pau Gasol to a two-year deal worth more than $30 million, while Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Tim Duncan is leaning towards retirement after 19 seasons. These two things are related.
Duncan has flirted with retirement for a few years, but each season he has come back and been incredibly effective. Last season, though, he played the fewest minutes in his career, missed a quarter of the season with a knee injury and various other old man ailments, and was frequently benched in the fourth quarter of close games as the Spurs went small-ish.
If Duncan is indeed retiring, Gasol is a pretty good replacement. He’s younger and has played 15,000 fewer minutes, is an elite passer who will fit seamlessly into the Spurs’ scheme, and should have no problem playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. But the move doesn’t come without consequences.
It means David West won’t be back—which is fine because he wasn’t very good—but it also means the Spurs will probably have to trade Large And Effective Swiss Army Knife Boris Diaw to make room for Gasol’s contract. Most damningly, the Spurs will be replacing Duncan’s still very good defense with Gasol’s very bad defense, after a playoffs where they got bounced in large part because they couldn’t stop the Thunder from getting to the rim. Gasol can’t solve this problem, and in fact makes it even worse.
But like every season, the Spurs are going to win 55-plus games, be a top three seed, and we won’t really be able to find out how good they are until May.