Pau Gasol and Players Destined for New Homes Next Season
Pau Gasol's inconsistent effort in the 2012 NBA playoffs reminds us of what we've seen from the seven-footer previously. This is not a new issue for Gasol, who disappeared at the wrong time last season as well.
The Los Angeles Lakers have already tried to trade Gasol for Chris Paul, but as we all famously know about by this point, David Stern put the kibosh on that idea when he decided to nix the deal. Despite all of the trade rumors that swirled around him this season, the deadline came and went with Gasol remaining in a Lakers uniform.
However, the Lakers will almost certainly revisit the idea of dealing Gasol in the offseason in an attempt to build depth on the roster.
He's not alone in that regard, as there are a handful of other players who could all be had for the right price on the trade market.
Focusing solely on trade candidates, here are six players who could find themselves in a new city before next season begins.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Contract Situation: Signed through 2012-13 at $13.2 million.
Smith's name has come up previously in trade rumors (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports), and with Atlanta's apparent unwillingness to exceed the luxury tax threshold, we can bet that we'll see J-Smoove in headlines in the offseason once again.
Atlanta is in a tough situation financially due to Joe Johnson's insane contract, and the team needs to find a way to make the pieces fit together moving forward. Moving a player of Smith's caliber has to yield a solid return for Atlanta, but it would allow Al Horford to slide to his natural power forward position where he's had success previously.
Smith's expiring contract will appeal to a number of teams looking to inject a highly athletic player into the starting five, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his name heat up in trade discussions sooner rather than later.
Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets
Contract Situation: Signed through 2012-13 season at $12.94 million.
Martin's definitely not untouchable with just a single season left on his deal, and it's important to remember that he was already almost traded earlier this year (to New Orleans) in the vetoed Chris Paul trade.
As a hefty expiring contract, Martin will draw interest from teams looking for a spot-up shooter, but his market will be limited to those teams which can accommodate his cumbersome deal. Houston might be forced to take back a bad contract in a deal, but the Rockets may be willing to roll the dice to get Martin's salary off the books.
Martin would be best served on a team where he can be a more prominent part of the offense. His up-and-down relationship with Rockets coach Kevin McHale prevented that for many games this year.
Jarrett Jack, New Orleans Hornets
Contract Situation: Signed through 2012-13 season at $5.58 million.
Jack's season was split between the starting lineup and the bench before ending early due to a foot injury, but regardless of his role, Jack showed that he can really play in this league.
Posting career-high marks in points (15.6), rebounds (3.9), assists (6.3) and free throw percentage (87.2), Jack showed us that he's more than capable of contributing at the offensive end of the floor.
With Greivis Vasquez developing and two lottery picks on the way in the 2012 draft, Jack could very well net the Hornets a future asset (or two) that would help the franchise rebuild. As a player whose contract expires at season's end, Jack's future is very obviously not in New Orleans.
A contending team without a ton of financial flexibility would be a great landing spot for Jack, but a playoff team looking to fill its sixth man role should also entertain the thought of what Jack could bring to the table.
Mo Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Contract Situation: Signed through 2012-13 season at $8.5 million (player option).
Although Williams has a player option in his deal for next season, it's near impossible to imagine that he would leave a guaranteed $8.5 million on the table when he wouldn't get that elsewhere.
Here's the problem for Los Angeles: The Clippers have far less than a full roster under contract for next season, and the club has to keep in mind that extensions for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are atop the priority list for the 2013-14 season.
With Nick Young, Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups (among others) all set to enter free agency in the offseason, the Clippers will have to very carefully evaluate exactly what Williams is worth to the team as a sixth man.
Given Eric Bledsoe's emergence as Paul's backup, the Clippers could very well go the same route the Lakers did with Lamar Odom and wind up deciding that paying a reserve over $8 million simply isn't worth the money.
Luke Ridnour, Minnesota Timberwolves
Contract Situation: Signed through 2013-14 season at $8.32 million.
Ridnour's contract actually adds to his value on the market for two reasons: He's locked up for two more years, and the veteran point guard comes at a cost-controlled price. Although he played admirably down the stretch this season, there is a serious point-guard logjam in Minnesota.
With a healthy Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea (not to mention 2011 second-round pick Malcolm Lee), Ridnour's best path to consistent playing time will come with a different team. Given how many teams could use an upgrade in that department, even David Kahn has to understand that he can't just collect point guards forever.
Ridnour would be an instant improvement for a number of teams looking for someone who can capably facilitate the offense, and although he's not the "sexiest" of names, Ridnour's March averages (when he was starting) of 13.5 points and 6.9 assists demonstrate what he's capable of doing when given the chance.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Contract Situation: Signed through 2013-14 season at $38.3 million.
Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Gasol combine to make over $60 million next season. With extending Bynum's contract a priority and Bryant set to make nearly $30.5 million for the 2013-14 campaign, something has got to give in Los Angeles.
The Lakers previously expressed a willingness to depart with Gasol in the right deal, and the team may not have a choice in the offseason. With multiple areas of the roster needing improvement and Gasol set to turn 32 in July, this may be the last opportunity for the Lakers to get a valuable package in exchange for the seven-footer.
Gasol has had a very nice season for someone serving as the third option in the offense, but the Lakers need to overhaul the roster around Bynum and Bryant in order to keep Bryant's title window open.
The new collective bargaining agreement has shifted the landscape of things for the Lakers front office, and Gasol's name will once again be freely floating in trade rumors throughout the offseason.