How many times do I have to write this article before something actually happen?
Sometime during Super Bowl XLVIII news broke that the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns were engaged in preliminary trade discussions involving Pau Gasol. Color me shocked.
It seems like Gasol is rumored to be in every imaginable trade discussion these days and with good reason. Gasol is still a highly capable big man in a league that has a scarcity of them. If any of the current playoff teams need an additional piece that could potentially get them over the top they need not look further than Gasol.
The Suns are interested in Gasol seemingly out of nowhere. Before the season they traded away PF/C Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a first round pick. They were thought to be a team that was more interested in tanking than competing for a playoff spot. I thought they would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. However, they are currently 29-18 and have the 6th best record in the West.
The Suns probably aren’t a Western Conference contender this season; however, they are a young team on the rise than could trade for Pau Gasol with one of their four first round picks in the 2014 draft. Yes, you read that correctly. The Suns have FOUR first round picks in 2014. If they can trade one of those pieces for Gasol and re-sign him in the offseason they would have one of the best rosters in the NBA going into 2015.
The Suns have a tradable asset in Emeka Okafor, who is owed $14.5 million dollars this season and who’s contract expires at the end of the season. The fact that Okafor is coming off the books is great for the Lakers. They could trade Pau for Okafor straight up and grab a first round pick in the process. It’s a simple trade and would also save the Lakers a couple of million dollars this season and would bring them within $3 million dollars of the luxury tax. The Lakers could decide to make another trade at the deadline to bring their cap number under the luxury tax, which would save the team a couple of million more dollars.
The only reason why this trade hasn’t been completed yet is due to the fact that the Suns do not want to give the Lakers the Wizards or Minnesota Timberwolves first round picks that they own. The Suns, as of this moment, are only offering the Lakers their first round pick, which is currently 17th overall. If the Suns get Gasol that pick would likely be even later in the first round.
The Lakers need to somehow convince the Suns to give up one of those two other picks, which are protected to some degree. Alternatively, the Lakers could ask for the Suns pick in the 2014 draft and attempt to get a 2015 first round pick as well. The Suns have two 2015 first round picks, one of which is the Lakers pick that they traded away for Steve Nash.
Is this the trade that finally sends Pau Gasol out of town? Who knows? We’ve seen this story before and we may see it happen again. However, if the Lakers front office is truly building for next season then they need to get rid of Pau and they need to get rid of him right now. It’s the smart move. This is about playing chess and, so far, the Lakers front office has been playing checkers.