Several days ago, we re-examined the huge hurdles that the Lakers would have to overcome in a two-team deal that would send Pau Gasol out of Los Angeles. In addition to keeping cap room clear for Summer 2014 (and to a lesser extent, 2015) free agency, the Spaniard's massive $19.3 million dollar deal makes any potential pact hard to envision. Still, this isn't to say that the possibilities for a trade aren't there. As problematic as a pact would be, it's not impossible. Furthermore, with today's news of Kobe's massive $48 million dollar, two-year extension, there's no doubt that Pau's future with the Lakers, one way or another, has changed. The Lakers now have more than $33 million committed to next year's salary cap, which will affect just how much they'd be able re-sign Gasol for, if indeed that's a direction that they're going in. There is still the possibility that Pau will be a Laker past this summer, but the lack of enough cap room could very well have spelled out his future outside of Los Angeles. The latter may--MAY--incentivize the team to deal him if they're out of playoff contention this year.
What's important to note with today's news is that if the Lakers take back any salary in any trade for next season, they will essentially knock themselves out of the running to sign LeBron James and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, et al. What many would consider to be a long shot right now would be a downright impossibility.
The teams that would most likely be interested in Pau would be squads looking to make the playoffs with the assets necessary to take on a massive expiring deal and simultaneously willing to watch Gasol walk away for nothing at year's end. From there, it's relatively easy to cross off the teams that are instantly not fit trade partners.
Unless the Lakers are looking to deal draft picks (which they aren't--for multiple reasons past the fact that they gave them out like condoms at Senior Prom last offseason), rebuilding squads like the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Bobcats, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic aren't a match. These teams aren't taking on a massive salary like Pau's unless it comes with draft considerations and at his age and expiring contract status, he is simply a rental piece for teams going into the playoffs. These six teams, even as rosy as their futures may be (well, maybe not Charlotte's), are in no way attempting to fortify themselves for a postseason run.
Moving on from there, some organizations simply don't have the need or assets. The Brooklyn Nets have the contracts (Paul Pierce's expiring $15.3M deal means more than just vomit in my mouth), but do not have the picks or young players for the next four or five years. The New York Knicks certainly have the need, but don't have the matching salaries or assets besides Iman Shumpert and his $1.4M contract (to be blunt, if the Lakers take on Andrea Bargnani's remaining $23M over two years, I will drown Jimmy Buss in his car with penne pasta). Tyson Chandler's two years and $29M would be a good starting point in terms of money, but I don't see the Knicks giving up on their defensive fulcrum even with his injury history.
The reigning champion Miami Heat don't have the assets besides Wade, James and Bosh--can we safely say that they're out of the mix? The Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards don't really have the need for another slow, back-to-the-basket post player (though some of those teams, Indy for one, have the means to acquire Pau). The Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, and San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, do not really have the disposable salary assets available to match up with the Lakers. The Spurs would be a possibility, but they'd have to deal 28-year-old Tiago Splitter as the primary piece on their side of the deal--that is not happening.
With 16 teams eliminated, who is available to deal with?
(All salary data courtesy of hoopshype.com)
"Hold on, a half dozen Lakers bloggers are flipping over their Corollas on Figueroa."
Toronto Raptors: New Toronto GM Masai Ujiri can't be attached to any of the previous contract signed under the recently departed Coangelo regime, including DeMar DeRozan's remaining $38M over four years, Landry Fields' $14M over two years, and Rudy Gay's $37M over two years. At $17.9M this year and $19.3M the next, Gay looks like he could be a perfect one-for-one trade with Gasol, especially with draft picks involved. However, doing this trade would a) net the Lakers Gay, whose inefficiency as a scorer and able but unwilling defense ability has driven fans MAD for years, and b) cap out the Lakers for 2014-2015. This would be a terrible trade in so many ways, though it looks like one of the easiest to execute cap-wise. The only way the Lakers capitulate here would be if the Raptors added in several draft picks.
Sacramento Kings: A report came out last week that the Kings are trying to bail veterans from what's been a dilapidated old wooden ship (called "Diversity", I believe). Marcus Thornton, Chuck Hayes and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute make this deal work, but they also would be making a combined $19M next year (which would cap the Lakers out before they even got to free agency). Even with Isaiah Thomas or Greivis Vasquez included in the trade, I don't see this working for the Lakers.
"We'd love to make this happen, but..."
New Orleans Pelicans: Gasol would fit very nicely with Anthony Davis up the middle for a ‘Cans team that's trying to make the postseason (as evidenced by the Jrue Holiday draft day deal), but unless the Lakers are willing to take either Eric Gordon's or Tyreke Evans' $45M dollar deals (each!), this isn't happening. Wishing for Ryan Anderson is a nice pipe dream, but he's too good and too modestly paid for the Pelicans to give up for a 33-year-old on an expiring contract.
Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers are off to an unbelievable (almost literally) start at 12-2. Robin Lopez and Meyers Leonard are doing a fine job alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, but it's clear that Pau would be a giant upgrade. The problem is that the PDX just doesn't look like they have enough salary to match up with $19.3M dollars without the Lakers taking back a ton of future salary commitments. They'd have to bring in a third team to make this deal happen.
Memphis Grizzlies: I didn't include Memphis on the earlier version of this draft, but Marc Gasol's injury Friday night changed my stance on Memphis' potential involvement. There's obviously going to be a void next to Zach Randolph in the Grizzlies front court for at least a couple months--what better way to replace a Gasol than with another Gasol? Though Pau doesn't bring the same defensive chops as his brother, he certainly is an upgrade over Kosta Koufos or Ed Davis at the center position. The only problem here is that there's almost no way for the Grizzlies to get up to the $19M mark without dealing Randolph, Conley or Marc Gasol. It's not that the need isn't there--the math isn't adding up.
"We'll call you back."
Oklahoma City Thunder: To get this done, the Lakers would have to take on $9.1M of Kendrick Perkins' 2014-2015 contract, which is unsavory on multiple levels going so deep that it could strike oil. Still, with picks attached, Jeremy Lamb, Hasheem Thabeet, Ryan Gomes and Thabo Sefolosha, the Lakers could consider this for a second before shooting it down.
Milwaukee Bucks: Starting with Caron Butler ($8M expiring) and Ekpe Udoh ($4.46M expiring), the Bucks would probably need to throw in Luke Ridnour ($4.3M) to get in the financial neighborhood of this deal. Milwaukee is notoriously against tanking, so a piece like Gasol would certainly be a major step to getting them there. What gives me pause about this trade though is dealing Ridnour, who is the team's starting point guard and best playmaker. Still, pairing those contracts with a first rounder would definitely give the Lakers an excuse to make this deal--the only problem is not getting back a young player. Guys like John Henson and certainly Larry Sanders won't be on the block.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggs are a fascinating case here, simply in that they are most likely in a rebuilding situation with multiple contracts that a new front office regime might want to bail out of. The Lakers would be in the unique situation of taking on salary past 2014, but the contracts they'd take on are all for young players with upside. Danilo Gallinari--currently out recovering from a torn ACL--has more than $30M left on his deal and could be a key piece. Other players like Andre Miller, JJ Hickson and Darrell Arthur could easily help build towards Pau's $19.3M cap figure. Beyond the players they'd acquire, the Lakers would be in a position to demand multiple future protected picks, a situation they won't often see before the trade deadline. A trade like this would partially blow up their unspoken credo against taking on commitments past 2014, but the combination of picks and young players makes this trade somewhat plausible.
"We gotta chat about this. Hold on."
Chicago Bulls: Like Memphis, Chicago looks like it could be more a possibility now than before. Even with a healthy Derrick Rose, the Bulls aren't a great offensive team. Adding Pau Gasol could certainly allay those matters, as he's a better post scorer than anyone currently in Chi-Town.
Any deal with the Bulls has to revolve around either Carlos Boozer's remaining two years and $33M or Luol Deng's $14.3M expiring contract. For the Lakers, there's no question that Deng's contract looks much more palatable, especially considering he has to be one of their prime targets during free agency this summer. The Bulls have a built in replacement with Jimmy Butler on the roster, and could use a reliable scoring option like Gasol when their offense stalls. With Rose gone for the rest of the season, adding in Steve Blake could seal this deal for Chicago. The prize here would be Deng (who would be in an audition for a multi-year deal) and a draft pick or two.
Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs have a clear need for Pau, who would looks very nice at the center position next to Dirk Nowitzki, and the motivation to make the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time in Mark Cuban's ownership tenure. What's more, they have the contracts to complete a deal: most likely Shawn Marion's $9M expiring, Samuel Dalembert's $3M expiring and a combination of Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington and/or Devin Harris. Like most of these fake scenarios, the Lakers could be enticed with the inclusion of a draft pick and/or a young player like Shane Larkin or Ricky Ledo.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Before the year, ownership candidly admitted that the time for bottoming out was over--the time for these seeds to bear fruit was soon coming to pass. The Cavs came into 2013-2014 with playoff potential, but have quickly degraded into a giant mess. The team is rife with positional redundancies, roster overflow and a mismatch of skill sets, all of which has led to a 4-10 record, pitiful considering how weak the Eastern Conference is yet again this year. Still, if the team wanted to even out its roster in lieu of an experienced vet who could propel them to the playoffs, it looks like the Lakers are a great match.
This all starts with Anderson Varejao's expiring $9.1M deal, and could quickly reach $19.3M by adding in, hilariously I might add, Andrew Bynum (whose deal for next year is non-guaranteed) or former lottery picks like Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and Earl Clark. The Lakers' motivation here is clear: to grab a young player with potential and a draft selection.
Honestly, none of these situations look particularly likely, nor do they really have the exact ingredients for the Lakers to pull the trigger. If any, I'd peg Chicago or Dallas as the best fit, though they might not be able to send back enough assets to convince the Lakers to deal with the fallout of trading Gasol. However, seeing how carefully the Lakers have maneuvered their cap flexibility over the past four seasons, the payroll space gained by simply keeping Pau and watching his deal expire could be worth more to the Lakers than any trade asset they could grab in a deal. That, combined with all the large obstacles sitting in the way of a trade and the extraordinarily difficult nature of a three-team deal, Pau should be a Laker come season's end. However, with $33M+ committed to next year's salary cap, either way we should be looking at Pau's tenure as a Los Angeles Laker.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino