ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Chicago Bulls’ center Pau Gasol officially informed the team that he will decline his player option and enter free agency this summer.
The move was expected, and Gasol will most likely see more money with the rise of the salary cap. Chicago signed him to a two-year deal with a player option for year three for roughly $22 million back in 2014, and Pau saw two of his most productive seasons with the Bulls.
The Spanish seven-footer has shown no signs of slowing down, and his age is hardly a concern at this point. During the 2015-16 season, Gasol averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds per game in less than 32 minutes of action, but Chicago failed to make the playoffs and went 42-40 in Fred Hoiberg‘s first year as head coach. As effective as Gasol was on offense, the 35-year-old had one of his best seasons on the defensive side of the ball. His defensive rating per 100 possessions was 101, the best of his career, and averaged two swats per game for the first time since 2007.
Gasol will most certainly be seeing a hefty payday this summer because of everything he brings to the table — few bigs in the NBA do everything he does at the volume he does. To justify that, Pau Gasol was one four guys (Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Jordan) in the league last year to average 10+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 2+ blocks per game, according to Basketball-Reference. He can shoot consistently from anywhere inside the three-point line — although that shot is improving — and is still a handful down on the block. Moreover, he led all big men in the NBA with 4.1 assists per game, and who doesn’t love a center who can run your offense?