The Phoenix Suns are exploring the idea of trading for Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. The Suns would look to add Gasol to their frontcourt rotation to help put the team in a better position for a potential Western Conference playoff run while also maintaining their financial flexibility going into free agency this summer:
The appeal of a Gasol trade is that the Suns would be adding a front-line big man for the rest of the season without impacting their future flexibility to pursue younger stars via free agency or trade. It also gives Phoenix a chance to evaluate Gasol -- as well as acquire his Larry Bird rights -- before he becomes a free agent in July to assess whether he's a long-term fit.
It's believed that the Suns, knowing that a franchise-type talent is unlikely to become available between now and the deadline, like the idea of acquiring a proven veteran of Gasol's caliber who won't slice into the club's projected cap-space riches in this and future summers.
The Suns would be able to make this deal by using the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor as a way to match salaries. The Lakers were in similar talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers in trade discussions centered around the non-guaranteed contract of Andrew Bynum but did not make the trade, holding out for more assets.
The move to keep Gasol in a straight salary dump was a clear statement from the Lakers front office that they seek more than financial relief. The Suns have a roster full of young players as well as multiple first-round draft picks over the next two drafts, including the Lakers' 2015 first-round selection.
Phoenix has the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2014 first-round draft pick (top-13 protected), Washington Wizards' 2014 first-round draft pick (top-12 protected), Indiana Pacers' 2014 first-round draft pick (top-14 protected), and Los Angeles Lakers 2015' first-round draft pick (top-five protected as well as their own picks for the 2014 and 2015 draft.