Other than the ever-evolving Dwight Howard saga that seems to have no end in sight, the most beaten-to-a-pulp trade rumor in the last 18 months has been centered around Lakers power forward Pau Gasol.
Gasol has had a stellar career that began with the Memphis Grizzlies and has won two NBA titles with Los Angeles. But he's slowly and surely become an expendable member of a Lakers team that's desperately trying to add youthful and elite players to make another title run.
The 32-year-old Spaniard is not getting any younger and is quickly coming out of his prime, but he still remains a top-20 player in the league and would yield big return value in a number of deals that have been rumored since the end of the 2011-12 season.
Let's take a look at the four most likely destinations for Gasol to begin the 2012-13 season.
With Andrew Bynum's involvement in Dwight Howard rumors starting to become serious (per Yahoo! Sports), the likelihood of Gasol's return to L.A. could become drastically higher if Bynum were to leave and Howard to enter.
The Lakers likely won't want to get rid of both of their seven-footers if another big deal goes through, especially because of Howard's uncertain health and attitude problems.
Bynum was all too often seen as the unmovable centerpiece to the Lakers' future at just 24 years old and already one of the elite centers in the league, but a move for a player who's as talented as D-12 would take some consideration.
With Howard's arrival, the Lakers could suddenly have an insane Big Four of Gasol, Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. They surely would've taken that same foursome five years prior, but it's certainly still a group that has the skill to win a championship.
There's no doubt that after the circus atmosphere that has surrounded Gasol's future in the last couple of seasons, he'd be happy to go back "home" to Memphis.
According to Peter Vecsey of the New York Post, the Griz just could have the right piece to dangle out in front of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Memphis, by the way, says a source, is offering Zach Randolph, another solid citizen, for Pau. Rudy Gay, as of now, is not available— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) June 28, 2012
This deal may not be enough for the Lakers to pull the trigger since Gasol obviously has a lot of stellar play left in the tank and Randolph has had his fair share of injury troubles, but a stronger move could sway the Lakers.
Plus, a frontcourt duo of Pau and brother Marc Gasol would immediately be revered as one of the most menacing combinations in the entire league. It just so happens that they're related.
After dealing Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, it doesn't seem like the Hawks are completely done with moving some parts as they're still interested in adding Gasol to the mix.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Hawks are aggressively pursuing a deal that would send Josh Smith to Los Angeles and bring in Gasol.
Shipping Gasol to Atlanta would cause the Lakers' frontcourt to lose their huge size advantage and possibly lose some rebounding numbers as Smith is only 6'9", but he looks like a good fit on paper aside Bynum. He could use his athleticism to wreak havoc with a highly-skilled Lakers starting five.
Gasol playing next to Al Horford could also be an interesting duo. Horford is more of an interior force while Gasol likes to venture out and shoot his reliable mid-to-long-range jumper and stretch the defense.
It's surprising to me that people aren't talking more about this as a very real possibility.
The Houston Rockets made a significant push for Gasol (or Howard) just prior to the June 28 draft, and they refused to make a deal for either before using the vast number of first-round picks that they compiled.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported last week that the Rockets were interested in adding one of the two aforementioned seven-footers.
The Rockets have been hard at work since the offseason began, but have yet to make a significant move that will spark the fanbase that's been stagnant since the departure of Yao Ming. Adding Gasol to the fray would give Houston a new best player and someone to build on over the next five years.
Houston has a very young team and could use the experience that Gasol has. It would be a chance for Gasol to prove that he's gotten better through his experiences in the NBA Finals and throughout his trials and tribulations with the Lakers.
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