What is the trade value of Marc Gasol?

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and last night a Marc Gasol move seemed imminent. The Grizzlies sat Gasol for their 108-106 victory over the Timberwolves. It seemed like a signal to everyone in the building that there would be a news report out later that night. Gasol did eventually emerge from the locker room during the game and received a standing ovation from fans.

The Twittersphere was reporting Gasol was going to end up in Charlotte, with the exact trade details unknown. It has since surfaced that the deal would have the Hornets sending Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first round pick to Memphis in exchange for Gasol. The latest update is the deal now appears to be in peril.

The prevailing theory is the teams cannot agree on the protection for the pick. Either way, we now have a frame work for what a potenial Gasol trade might actually look like. As a result, we can examine what the proper trade value for Gasol is, and if this framework is appropriate.

2018-19 Gasol

Gasol had a fantastic start to the season. Through the first ~20 games it appeared as if the 2017-2018 season wasn’t indicative of a huge decline, and was more the result of circumstances stemming from Mike Conley’s injury and an unashamed tank job. When RPM debuted this year, Gasol was first in the entire league. On November 21st he ranked 3rd in PIPM.

The backbone to his high marks in the advance metrics was his defensive contributions. Early on, Gasol had a very real case for defensive player of the year. But as the season has worn on, the performance has slipped. Those RPM and PIPM rankings are now 27th and and 35th, respectively.

Specifically pertaining to defense, Gasol now ranks 25th in DRPM and and 22nd in D-PIPM. Clearly, that’s good, but it is a far cry from being an elite defender on the best defense in the league.

As a result, Gasol’s grades on the season look awfully similar to his marks from last year.

It’s fair to say Gasol has been declining since before last season, and at this point any expectation he will bounce back to his career grades would be illusions of grandeur.

Still, a contributor remains in Marc Gasol. As visually stated, he is posting a B- grade or better in 7 of the 11 categories that we chart. He is at an A- or better in three categories. Given his one on one and post play grades, he is capable of getting a bucket in a spot where set plays aren’t working and you just need a guy to make a play. He is still right on his career mark as a shooter around the rim, hitting 67.6% of his shots this season within three feet of the basket, which is in line with his 68.5% career percentage.

He has not lost any of his ability as a passer, and as stated above, his rankings in RPM and PIPM are still really good despite no longer being elite.

The Contract

Gasol is currently in his age 34 season. He has a player option for next year that will pay him $25.6 million. Both the salary figure of the option and the existence of the option suppress Gasol’s value.

$25.6 million for a non-elite center is an overpay. There are only two centers with cap hits that large this season, and one is Joel Embiid. (The other is Al Horford). Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond just miss the mark at $25.4 million.

Looking ahead to next year, Gasol’s cap hit would be the 9th largest among centers. Rudy Gobert will be making slightly less than Gasol. Myles Turner will be making $18 million next season and one can reasonably argue Turner is already the better player. The value contracts of Clint Capela and Jusuf Nurkic make the top of the center market look silly.

In regards to those surrounding Gasol next year, Embiid, Drummond, Whiteside, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and Steven Adams are all getting paid less than $2 million more. Except for Drummond and Whiteside, there is a clear difference between Gasol and the others that is larger than $2 million, especially when factoring in health and age.

But he may just decline the option anyway and leave. How much value is there in taking on a guy in which you will either have to overpay him or lose him for nothing after giving up an asset to obtain him?

Sum Value

As painful as it is to write, Gasol should be viewed as a negative asset. He’s still a contributor but is overpaid and can walk away in the summer. The other factor not yet discussed is the center market. Not the financial market, but the market for teams that really need centers.

That market isn’t very robust. Charlotte having interest is almost a gift. There has been a rumored connection of the Pistons being interested, but there doesn’t seem to be any traction there. In terms of an organization fit, there needs to be a team that is willing to chase the 8 seed with a win now move and has a need at center.

That basically leaves the Kings. To complicate things further, Sacramento doesn’t have bad salary it desperately wants to shed, and it is already out its 2019 first round pick, making it possible the team is reluctant to trade more picks.

It does appear the only end game here is to either not trade Gasol, or take back unwanted salary in order to receive draft compensation. That won’t be the sexiest trade package for trading a franchise icon, but there is a good chance Gasol leaves Memphis itself in the summer to join a more competitive roster. It would be the smart thing to do to take this opportunity and accumulate draft capital.

But then again, the Grizzlies are run by Chris Wallace.

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