Speculation has ramped up in recent weeks due to the Lakers' struggles. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported the following:
The Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves have both recently tried to engage the Lakers in trade discussions for Gasol, sources told ESPN.com, but the Lakers continue to tell teams that call that they will not consider dealing the Spaniard until L.A. can fully assess its roster after the return of injured point guard Steve Nash.
General manager Mitch Kupchak also addressed the rumor head on. The Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina wrote:
Kupchak also answered whether the Lakers will keep Gasol for the rest of the season.
"That has always been the plan," Kupchak said. "Nothing has happened to change the plan."
At this point, the Lakers are not ready to ship out Gasol, but no team is under more pressure to perform this seasons, and with every loss, desperation will grow. Here is what must happen for Kupchak to be in a situation in which he will pull the trigger on a trade involving Gasol.
Pau Gasol Must Struggle In Mike D’Antoni’s Offense
The Lakers have an aging roster and the highest payroll in the NBA by a considerable margin (according to Hoopsworld), and because of this, the team needs to win now. Ultimately, Gasol’s future in Los Angeles depends entirely on his performance in the next few months.
He is currently averaging 12.6 points per game, which is nearly six points below his career average. Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense has not suited Gasol in the brief time that he has been on the floor under the new Lakers coach.
Now, he is dealing with tendonitis in his knees and has been forced to miss games.
If Gasol’s health or level of play does not improve to the point that he is able to make a significant contribution before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, he will be wearing a different uniform this spring.
The Lakers Must Keep Losing
Sitting below .500 is certainly viewed as unacceptable by everyone in the Lakers organization, and if the team does not start winning soon, Gasol will be the first player sent away.
Los Angeles went all-in on this season and is sinking deeper by the day. If the team is anywhere near the position it is currently in near the All-Star break, it will make a trade.
Kobe Bryant is untouchable, Dwight Howard is the future of the franchise and Steve Nash was just signed this season. This leaves Gasol as the only player for which the Lakers would be able to trade in return for valuable pieces.
If the Lakers cannot start climbing up the standings soon, roster tweaks will be inevitable, and they will start with Gasol.
Other Teams Must Give Decent Offers
Will the Lakers trade Pau Gasol?
Stein and Shelburne note the Timberwolves are building their offer around Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic, while the Raptors would use Andrea Bargnani as their centerpiece.
If these are the options L.A. has on the table in February, Kupchak would be better off taking his chances with Gasol.
Williams is completely unproven, while Pekovic is an imperfect fit for D’Antoni’s system. Bargnani’s ability to stretch the floor would be useful on offense, but his defense and rebounding are well below average.
Ultimately, the Lakers’ wishes to trade Gasol will be in vain if they are unable to get decent value in return.