It’s undoubtedly one of the worst kept secrets in the NBA that the Los Angeles Lakers have been using Pau Gasol as trade bait for several years now.
The team has failed to ship him out on numerous occasions, from the Chris Paul deal, which was vetoed by then Commissioner David Stern (you’re welcome Clippers’ fans), to the Dwight Howard saga, which seemed to go on forever.
Yet Pau is still donning a purple and gold uniform, but for how long?
With Dwight Howard bolting for greener pastures, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash adding to the list of profile spectators at the Staples Centre and Mike D’Antoni struggling to find bodies to fill the roster, it’s safe to say the winning culture of Lakers has been put on hold. That means it’s time to start afresh and build a new dynasty for the NBA’s most storied franchise.
Consequently, it appears more likely that Pau Gasol will be a member of a different franchise come 3pm (ET) on Thursday. And according to multiple reports, Phoenix seems to be the likely destination. The problem is that the Lakers are asking for too much in return.
ESPN insider, Chris Broussard stated that: “Phoenix is ready to make the move and give up Emeka Okafor's expiring contract, but L.A. want a young asset along with him, whether it’s a player or (preferably) a first round Draft pick, but the Suns aren’t budging.”
Phoenix themselves are in a unique situation since they could potentially end up with four of the first 30 picks in this year’s loaded NBA Draft. That’s in addition to the young talent they already have after acquiring Eric Bledsoe (aka mini LeBron) in the offseason.
Bledsoe has been a Godsend as he was averaging 18 points, six assists and four rebounds before a knee injury derailed his season. All-Star snub, Goran Dragic, along with players like the highflying Gerald Green, has picked up the slack to surprise everyone and place Jeff Hornacek’s team into a firm Playoff spot.
Nevertheless, they still need more help, especially on the defensive end.
Miles Plumlee has proven to be a great find for Hornacek and his athleticism lends itself well to the rookie coach’s high tempo offense. Plus, he has given the Suns faithful some emphatic rejections to talk about. Though that’s still not enough.
Phoenix currently have the seventh worst defense in the NBA as they allow 101.9 points per game. Moreover they rank a mediocre 13th overall, in blocks and rebounds so they could still use some help in the trenches if they are to make a final push, and make some noise in the post season.
This is where Gasol comes in.
The four time All-Star is 7ft tall and, despite earning himself a reputation as being a finesse player and being “soft,” he is still averaging over 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Moreover, he would also be a contributor on the offensive end for the explosive Suns, as proven by his 18.3 points for his career – 17points per game in 2013-14.
Can you imagine how effective the pick and roll with Dragic would be? It would be like the Phoenix Suns of old with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Of course there won’t be rim rocking dunks at the end of it all but still, the point remains. Hell, maybe he could even do something about the Suns’ atrocious 19.1 assists per game average, which is the worst in the Association.
I suppose you can’t really blame L.A. Lakers' General Manager Mitch Kupchack for standing his ground in regards to involving a young asset one way or another. After all, he’s seen what Oklahoma City has been able to do since they drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Though it’s not the first time he became too greedy.
Negotiations with the Cleveland Cavaliers fell apart because he insisted upon the inclusion of Dion Waiters or a first round pick in the Bynum-Gasol swap. The Cavs held their ground and ended up doing business with Chicago instead. Then again, what harm would there be if Phoenix were to give up one of their draft picks? Specifically the one procured from the Indiana Pacers.
At the end of the day, it’s anyone’s guess whether either of the teams will budge but, there’s definitely benefits to both teams coming to terms.
Trading Pau Gasol isn’t an absolute necessity, although it would relieve L.A. of his $19million contract and go a ways towards putting them under the luxury cap. That would mean they avoid the repeater tax, which could play a huge part coming Free Agency, especially when you factor in Kobe Bryant’s monster new contract.
Phoenix could really use the Spaniard’s versatility. His savvy and championship experience would also be a bonus for a young team in the meat grinder that is the Western Conference.
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