Handicapping the Gasol Sweepstakes: 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Land Pau
Pau Gasol probably isn't the type of player most teams would want to get rid of. He's an All-Star, one of the best 20-to-25 players in the league and a proven champion.
But his time as a Laker has come and gone. It's clear that he isn't a part of their future plans. Mitch Kupchak will probably look to trade him this summer for depth to surround Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum.
But where will he go?
Many of the teams that were reportedly interested in him at the trade deadline (particularly Boston and Minnesota) have likely moved on. But that doesn't mean there isn't a market for him. Players like Gasol will always be valuable.
Here are the five teams most likely to trade for L.A.'s All-Star big man.
5. Dallas Mavericks
This may seem like an odd trade for many reasons.
First of all, we saw first hand last year that the Mavs and Lakers don't exactly like each other too much. It seems odd that the Lakers would want to help Dallas by giving them Gasol.
Second of all, the package isn't exactly what most Lakers fans expect. Marion and Haywood are both older and owed significant money.
But from a basketball standpoint, the move makes sense on both sides. The Lakers get another seven-footer in Haywood, a defender/glue guy in Marion and a spark plug off the bench in Beaubois.
It's not an ideal package, but it gives the Lakers flexibility to get rid of Metta World Peace and still allows them use their mid-level exception on a point guard. This deal could net them three solid players.
I don't expect the Lakers to pounce on such a trade, but I expect Mark Cuban to at least try to put something together. He's proactive, which is why his Mavs are on this list and teams like Atlanta and Detroit aren't.
4. Sacramento Kings
The trade: Sacramento sends Tyreke Evans, Chuck Hayes and Jimmer Fredette to the Lakers for Gasol.
Tyreke is in a similar situation to Gasol. He's a fine player with loads of potential, but the Kings seem to want to move in a different direction. They seem to believe that their future lies with DeMarcus Cousins (who I'm sure the Lakers would push for in such a trade), Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton.
A trade for Gasol would put them in a position to compete right away. The tandem of Gasol and Cousins, if they could develop chemistry, would be awesome, and their young guards are only going to get better. They probably wouldn't be in the hunt for a championship, but they could at least get in the playoffs, which is a significant improvement from where they are now.
The Lakers, meanwhile, get a guy in Evans who can play three positions, is starting to figure out how to play defense and is a former Rookie of the Year. The talent is all there. He just needs to figure out how to harness it. Kobe Bryant would make an excellent mentor for him.
Hayes would be a nice glue guy next to Andrew Bynum. His defense, energy and maturity are a welcome change of pace next to the 24-year-old man-child. Jimmer gives them another shooter off the bench with potential, not to mention someone fans everywhere love.
I'd think about this trade if I were the Lakers. It seems like a nice fit for both sides.
3. Chicago Bulls
The trade: Chicago sends Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson to the Lakers for Gasol and Metta World Peace.
The Bulls have refused to trade Deng in the past. Remember, he was the one guy Chicago wouldn't offer in a potential trade for Kobe Bryant in 2008.
Well, things have changed. If Derrick Rose were healthy I don't think the Bulls make this trade. But he's not. Philadelphia exposed just how hapless the offense is without him. They need a go-to guy or they'll be in danger of missing the playoffs next year.
Ideally, Gasol isn't the guy, but he's a good enough backup plan. He can carry the team while Rose gets healthy. And then when Rose comes back, he'll finally have a suitable sidekick. They'll miss Deng's defense and Boozer's man-boobs, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
On talent alone, this is a freaking heist for the Lakers. If they can get Carlos Boozer in shape and caring about basketball (which admittedly is harder than it should be), he can do a pretty reasonable Gasol impersonation.
And that's before we add Deng. In him, the Lakers would get one of the league's premier glue guys, a top-tier defender and someone who would fit perfectly with Kobe. Throw in C.J. Watson (who I think the Bulls look to move anyway given the emergence of John Lucas III), and this deal puts the Lakers back on top of the Western Conference.
There is one thing to keep in mind, though. The Lakers are known to want to avoid adding salary. Carlos Boozer might have the worst contract in the league. Would Jim Buss be willing to take it on? That's going to be a big issue in any trade talks.
2. Brooklyn Nets
The trade: Brooklyn sends Deron Williams (in a sign and trade) to the Lakers for Gasol.
If there's one thing we've learned definitively over the last few years, it's that the Nets' front office has absolutely no clue what it's doing.
They've given massive long-term contracts to Travis Outlaw and Johan Petro.
They traded a lottery pick for two months of Gerald Wallace's services. In other words, they essentially gave up Thomas Robinson or Harrison Barnes for someone who was leaving anyway.
The logical move after Deron Williams inevitably leaves is to rebuild. They have at least some young talent, and they'll be bad long enough to draft some studs.
But we know that's not happening.
They're going to try to panic-trade Williams to a contender for a star to open their new building in Brooklyn. In other words, the Lakers are going to steal Williams for 70 cents on the dollar because the Nets don't know how to run a franchise. It must be fun to root for the Lakers.
Realistically, I'm not sure how much Williams wants to be a Laker, which is why I didn't make this No. 1 on my list, but it seems like it's at least possible. The Lakers get their point guard of the future and the Nets have someone to promote on billboards while they stumble to yet another 20-win season. I'd pity them if I wasn't a Knicks fan.
1. Houston Rockets
The trade: Houston sends Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson to the Lakers for Gasol.
This was the trade I mentioned in my "How to Fix the Lakers" column. It's just a logical fit for everyone.
We know that Houston GM Daryl Morey loves Gasol. He was ready to give up essentially this package for him in December, and that shouldn't change now. The Rockets need a star, and this is their best chance to get one.
For the Lakers, it fills a big need without creating another one. Luis Scola is a lot like Pau Gasol, he's just not as good. They wouldn't have to completely retool the offense to fit him in.
In Kevin Martin they'd get something they've lacked without Lamar Odom—a true sixth man. Martin could be to them what Jason Terry is for Dallas and James Harden is for Oklahoma City; someone who plays 30 minutes per game and gives them major production.
Unlike Odom, though, Martin wouldn't have be a part of L.A.'s big-man shuffle, so there would be no confusion over who plays crunch time. Martin can play with Kobe and be a valuable second perimeter option.
Patterson is no star, but he gives the Lakers something they desperately need: depth. At this point, they can't turn down adding good players. That's why this trade makes sense. It gives them three good players who fit what they want to do. For a team that revolved largely around three guys this season, that means a ton.
This is the easy trade. Everyone knows it's out there for the taking. The pieces fit. Logically, it should happen. But in the NBA, logic doesn't always win out. Watch for one of the other teams, or perhaps even a mystery team, on this list to make a play for Gasol. What we do know is that the Lakers are going to get something valuable for their Spanish star.