Lakers Rumors: Why L.A. Must Trade Pau Gasol to Preserve Future

T.J. McaloonContributorMarch 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a foul during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on February 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers must make the decision to move forward Pau Gasol, not because of the constant trade rumors that have hurt his play, but because it gives them much needed cap relief. 

The Lakers' All-Star forward will have a cap hit of $19 million in 2012 and $19.2 the following year. By the time his contract expires after the 2013 season, he will be 34 years old and nearing the end of his career. 

Moving Gasol would see the Lakers trading their second-highest paid player on the team behind Kobe Bryant, who makes $25.2 million against their cap. 

According to the, the Lakers could move Gasol in a cost-cutting move to give them some cap relief heading into the 2012 offseason. 

The most clear destination for Gasol might be Houston. The Rockets were willing to part with Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a draft pick, to get Gasol in the failed Chris Paul three-team trade. According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Rockets are willing to make the deal again.

Should the Lakers make that trade, they would reduce their payroll, which appears to be the club's priority considering some of the cost-cutting moves the team has made since the offseason.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10:  Luis Scola #4 of the Houston Rockets against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 10, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
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If the Lakers were to move Gasol and take on Martin ($12 million), Scola ($8.5 million) and Dragic ($2.1 million), while getting a draft pick that could be a lottery pick depending on where the Rockets finish the regular season, it would be a smart financial decision.

All of those players can give the Lakers cap relief, while Martin’s contract expires after the 2012 season and Dragic’s deal ends after this season. Scola can be kept on till 2014, but at a reasonable cap hit of only $11 million at its highest point.

Gasol has been a great player for the Lakers during his tenure with the club. However, his cap hit is way too much and dumping his contract could enable the Lakers to make a serious run at the top free agents coming up in the next few years.