With the Los Angles Lakers struggles the last few seasons, it has been no secret that management is looking to make some moves.
Last season, their trade to acquire Chris Paul was unfortunately vetoed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. It involved sending away forwards Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the latter who requested a trade soon after and was consequently sent to Dallas.
The latest buzz around the league is that the Lakers are checking up on the value of both Gasol and Metta World Peace. One story has surfaced that the Atlanta Hawks are very interested in sending Josh Smith for Gasol.
While this deal might be helpful for either team on the surface, it is actually potentially damaging for both franchises.
LA's largest problem this season was a lack of help on the perimeter. World Peace and Matt Barnes became offensively redundant, making it very difficult for any other players to work on that side of the ball.
Leaving Barnes and World Peace open on the three-point line was a main reason why Gasol, Bryant and Andrew Bynum struggled in the playoffs, and teams would sag off and double team.
This potential trade does not solve this problem in the slightest. While Smith has the ability to play small forward, he does not possess the perimeter scoring the Lakers need. On a side note, they do not have a solid power forward to fill the void Smith will leave if he moves to the small forward position.
For Atlanta, Gasol’s low-post style of play might be helpful to their system. The Hawks are infamous for playing at a slow pace, where the Spaniard would fit in. It would allow Al Horford to slide back to power forward; his natural and preferred position. He was forced to play center due to the lack of players on the Hawks’ roster, yet played forward in college.
The lineup would consist of Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson in the backcourt, with Marvin Williams, Horford and Gasol in the frontcourt. It is a decent starting rotation, but for Atlanta, this is not the real issue.
Both of these teams are over the salary cap limit. The cap is predicted to be approximately $59 million for next season.
The Lakers currently sit at $75.7 million and Atlanta resides at $60.9 million. For this trade to happen, the incoming and outgoing salaries need to match up. Gasol’s $19 million for next season is larger than Smith’s $13.2 million, meaning Atlanta will need to include additional players.
The Hawks could include Marvin Williams, who has yet to show the potential of being a former second overall pick (drafted ahead of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Andrew Bynum).
He is owed $8.2 million, which would push the incoming trade value for LA to approximately $21.4 million. According to salary cap rules, LA can only receive 125 percent of the outgoing salary, in addition to $100,000.
A further explanation can be found here.
In this way, the trade works out short-term salary wise. Yet this is a situation Atlanta should avoid at all costs.
The Hawks management is infamous for signing Joe Johnson to a max level deal in 2010. Even though Johnson was already 29, his six-year deal was worth $119 million. This means he will earn $24.8 million in the final year of his contract, at age 35.
Nonetheless, Atlanta’s cap is currently at $60.9 million. While it is beneficial to move Smith’s and Williams’ contracts, they are receiving a longer, more expensive deal in the process.
Both Smith and Williams will become free agents at the end of next season, provided neither signs an extension and Williams does not opt in to his player option. Gasol’s contract will finish at the end of the 2013-14 season.
If this trade was made today, Atlanta’s cap would already be at $58.4 million. Considering the roster would consist of Gasol, Johnson, Horford, Teague and Zaza Pachulia, it puts the Hawks in a very difficult situation moving forward.
The season thereafter, the combination of Gasol, Johnson and Horford will give them a salary cap of $52.7 million. Now unless you’re the Miami Heat or the Oklahoma City Thunder, it is a bad sign if you have almost your entire cap dedicated to just three players.
On another note, the contracts of Johnson and Horford extend until the 2015-16 season, so Atlanta is unfortunately stuck at around $35 million every year after next season, with just two players on the roster.
To conclude, this deal is damaging for both sides.
For LA, it does not address the true problems of their roster. They have one of the best frontlines in the NBA, possessing two skilled 7-footers in Gasol and Bynum. Having no perimeter help impedes on their abilities and their desire to be successful.
Acquiring a lesser forward, who while better defensively, actually makes this problem on offense even worse, as Smith’s athletic, one-dimensional offensive skill-set does not have the leverage to incorporate other players.
The team has no-one to stretch the floor, and opposing defenses will make easy work and simply run a 3-2 zone.
In Atlanta, they would receive a solid forward in Gasol, yet their salary cap situation will block any form of improvement for years to come. Unless they decide to amnesty Johnson, which they won’t, management will be stuck in the same hole for the future.
Both team’s should take their time with these deals, and hopefully find an appropriate one that assists both sides.