The Portland Trail Blazers were able to make the 2015-16 playoffs behind the dynamic young backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. But the team’s frontcourt wasn’t really a strong point, even with Al-Farouq Aminu having a career year at small forward. That’s why the Blazers are reportedly ready to dangle $40 million over two years to lure free agent Pau Gasol over from the Chicago Bulls.

An instant upgrade if signing pushes forward

If Gasol signs with the Blazers, that will give them an instant boost at the center position, and a definite improvement over Mason Plumlee (9.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 blocks per game) and Meyers Leonard (8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds), who shared minutes at the five in 2015-16.

Even at 35-years-old, Gasol still put up strong numbers for the Bulls, averaging 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks, and served as one of the few truly bright spots in a season where the team missed the playoffs. He even provides a good shooting touch for a seven-footer, which may make him even more appealing for head coach Terry Stotts.

Other teams also interested

The Trail Blazers aren’t the only team aggressively pursuing Gasol. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Timberwolves are among the teams who may be willing to pay Gasol about $18 million to $22 million a year. A Timberwolves deal would make sense, as it would reunite Gasol with former head coach Tom Thibodeau, and potentially have him starting at power forward next to 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns, who plays center.

Does Gasol exit mean fall of the Bulls?

Additionally, Shelburne's tweet mentioned that the Bullsmay be trying to retain their talented center, though pundits speculate that Gasol’s chances of returning to Chicagofor a couple more years are slim, given last year’s disappointing showing. The team finished with a 42-40 record, placing 9th in the Eastern Conference, just one position short of making the postseason.

With point guard Derrick Rose having been traded to New York and Gasol likely to exit via free agency, the Bulls appear to be Jimmy Butler's team now. But with a lack of proven talent surrounding him, it would appear that Butler will be the leader of a rebuilding effort, one that also includes top rookie pick Denzel Valentine, a point guard from Michigan State, and young forwards Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

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