New Portland Trail Blazers big man Pau Gasol will provide invaluable veteran leadership.
After the initial wave of free agency, it was reported by multiple sources (most notably Jason Quick) that the Portland Trail Blazers would head into training camp with 14 players. At the time, the team only had 13 guaranteed contracts in tow, and the speculation was that the Blazers would use an open spot to sign a veteran big.
On Wednesday afternoon, they did just that, signing Pau Gasol to a veteran’s minimum deal. A two time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, six time All-Star, and former Rookie of the Year (2002), Gasol has been one of the league’s most consistent and productive players over his lengthy career.
Gasol may have technically been brought to provide some more depth at center, but it is highly unlikely that he will have a major role in Portland. More importantly, his real value should lie in the veteran presence he provides in the locker room and through the development of the Blazers’ young bigs.
The Blazers have always keyed in on having trustworthy veterans who are happy to teach the next generation of NBA players. It is partly how Portland built such a strong locker room culture. With many of the veterans from previous years no longer on the roster, it falls on the likes of Gasol and Anthony Tolliver to guide the youngsters.
Portland has the likes of Zach Collins and Skal Labisierre in the fold, two young big men who could learn from a potentially future Hall of Famer. While technically Gasol didn’t play in the “modern NBA”, his skillset was very advanced for his time, allowing the Spaniard to pass off applicable knowledge to the two.
Additionally, the acquisition of Hassan Whiteside brings some questions. Although immensely talented, Whiteside has often struggled keeping his emotions/morale in check. Considering how important he will be to Portland’s playoff viability next year, having the steady Gasol in his ear should only hold positive outcomes for both Whiteside and the Trail Blazers organization.
If you look at every championship team, they all had veterans who may have not played the biggest role on the court, but provided so much wisdom and morale support from the sideline. The hope is Gasol can do that, and help Portland emerge out of the tight Western Conference.