The Mavs' level of interest in the 7-foot Gasol is largely dependent on his price tag, sources told ESPNDallas.com. The four-time All-Star, who turns 34 next month, is expected to take a major pay cut after making $19.3 million last season.
Gasol could well represent the Mavs' best opportunity to upgrade at the center position via free agency. They also have significant interest in Washington's Marcin Gortat, whom they recruited as a restricted free agent in 2009, signing him to an offer sheet that was surprisingly matched by the Orlando Magic.
Sources, however, say the Mavericks fear they'll be priced out of the hunt to pry Gortat from the Wizards, who have ample space under the salary cap and are interested in keeping the 29-year-old Gortat as part of a young core of the team that broke the franchise's five-year postseason drought and advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
As ESPN.com reported last month, Dallas would be at the front of the line if the New York Knicks make ex-Mavs center Tyson Chandler available on the trade market. But it remains to be seen what maneuver -- trading for Chandler or beating the open-market competition for Gasol -- would be easier to execute. Gasol is expected to have several suitors, including the Lakers.
The Mavs are projected to have slightly more than $30 million in salary-cap space when free agency opens, although a chunk of that will go to face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki, who has repeatedly declared his intention to re-sign with the Mavs for a significantly reduced salary after completing a four-year, $80 million contract.
The Mavs would not have enough cap space to pursue Gasol if they are successful in recruiting perennial All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony. The Mavs have long expected to have an opportunity to make a face-to-face pitch with Anthony, sources told ESPN.com, but Nowitzki said this week that it's "not really" realistic to anticipate the Mavs landing him. The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls are also among the teams expected to strongly pursue Anthony.
Sources say the Mavs also have interest in free-agent small forward Luol Deng, although there are concerns about his durability after the two-time All-Star missed 75 games over the previous four seasons and led the league in minutes per game twice in the last four seasons.
A pairing of 36-year-old All-Star power forward Nowitzki and Gasol would give the Mavs the two premier European 7-footers in NBA history and boost an offense that already ranked among the league's best last season. Gasol, who averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 60 games for the Lakers last season, would be by far the most versatile and productive offensive post player to be paired with Nowitzki.
However, there would be major defensive issues with the Nowitzki-Gasol duo, a concern for a franchise that had the lowest-ranked defense among playoff teams last season. However, the Mavs would still have 2013-14 starting big man Samuel Dalembert, giving coach Rick Carlisle a better defensive option at center. With managing Nowitzki's minutes a priority, Gasol likely would play as many minutes at power forward as center if he signed with the Mavs.
The Mavs will also explore possibilities of upgrading at center through the trade market, but there is a distinct possibility that Dalembert could return as the starter, fronting a big man committee that would also feature lanky, high-leaping Brandan Wright. In that case, the Mavs would look to land a low-priced banger in free agency, potentially re-signing DeJuan Blair.