The good news about Pau Gasol is that he's not signed for 15 million per year for five years. In that sense, he'll never be the bad contract that Carlos Boozer was. Paying a shade under seven million per year for Pau suggests the Bulls view him as a role player type. He's actually paid less than Taj Gibson.
The fact that people are so excited about him seems more due to name recognition and in his prime achievements than current ability. He looks like he'll initially be the starter for the Bulls, also likely based on reputation and ego more so than ability. The real question is just how good will Pau Gasol be?
Last season, according to Synergy Sports, his most used play time was "Post Up" at 38.6% of his plays. His next most common play was the P&R Roll man at 19.7%. That's a pretty good start in terms of the way he is used in the offense relative to Boozer who was 27.2% and 14.3% respectively.
He was also a more efficient scorer than Boozer in both areas scoring .83 points per possession on post ups and 1.11 on roll man plays. Overall, Gasol's scoring wasn't so great at .92 points per possession though still a step up from Carlos Boozer's .85.
So if Gasol repeats last season, he'll give us more than last season's version of Boozer. If you compare Gasol to 2010 Carlos Boozer, the comparison isn't far off. In 2010, Boozer averaged .93 points per possession, and .85 on post ups. In short, last year's Gasol might give us something similar to 2010 Boozer on offense in terms of creating shots and overall efficiency.
It's unlikely he'll add a whole lot more on defense than Boozer did either, though he does have more height to contest shots. I don't trust Gasol as much rebounding the basketball, but Boozer stole enough rebounds from teammates padding his stats that I'm not sure there's much of a difference there.
The problem for the Bulls will be how long Gasol can fight off age. It's possible some of the decline in his ability the past couple seasons has been based on the quality of his teammates and being the #1 option on the Lakers. The Chicago Bulls should represent a much better set of teammates for him to play with which means we might even see an uptick in his ability this season.
However, Chicago wanted to turn this into a two year deal via S&T for more money per year for a few reasons. First, they'd have more cap room in 2016 when Kevin Durant will become a free agent, but also because they recognize that Gasol isn't likely going to be an asset in that third season even on what feels like a pretty reasonable deal right now.
The good news for Chicago is that as Gasol's minutes wind down over the next three seasons it creates a good window for Nikola Mirotic to play more. Mirotic might not get a whole lot of run this season as there simply aren't likely to be a whole lot of big man minutes available, however, as Gasol declines and his minutes drop, Mirotic should easily fill in those gaps.
They aren't the same type of players in style, but they're at least both offensive oriented players and may provide similar types of impact to the rest of the team when on the floor.
Overall, I'm keeping my expectations for Pau Gasol fairly limited. He won't be the next Boozer in terms of fan hatred simply because his contract isn't close to being as bad as Boozer's nor are the expectations as high. However, in terms of playing style? It's definitely possible he'll be a starting offensive option who plays limited minutes and isn't used as a closer, quite similar to Boozer.
The good news for Chicago is even if he only gives the Bulls one decent large minute season and then plays 15 minutes a night as a backup in the final two years the cost won't be obscene, and the roster might even make that preferable.
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