Dallas Mavericks Must Trade for Pau Gasol to Reach Contender Status

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Dallas Mavericks Must Trade for Pau Gasol to Reach Contender Status
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All's quiet on the Pau Gasol front. At least, for now.

When things heat up again, look for the Dallas Mavericks to be in play for the big Spaniard—their NBA playoff hopes depend on it.

The Los Angeles Lakers have backed away from their desperation of moving the two-time NBA Champion and leader of the Spanish basketball team come Olympic time. It is clear that the Lakers and head coach Mike D'Antoni want to see what they have with Gasol and Steve Nash healthy before jumping to any conclusions.

Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated confirmed that theory in his latest collaboration with Ben Golliver:

In a Lakers season marked by impatience, I’m glad that Kupchak and the Busses were able to come to such a sensible conclusion regarding Gasol’s fate. There is no ticking clock. There is no need for a reactionary move. There is only a team desperate for some strategic navel-gazing, as its health and coaching reboot are now creating something of a fresh start.

For the sake of argument, let's say things do not go the way management plans. Nash is not able to turn around the sinking ship, and the Lakers are in trade mode. Gasol seems to be the most likely candidate, and there is a good possibility that the Mavericks will do their due diligence when it comes to his availability, even if it means losing a player that helped the franchise win its only championship.

According to Dallas Morning News writer Eddie Sefko, Shawn Marion is the one Mav that has to be included in every Pau Gasol-to-Dallas trade scenario.

In fact, I've been trying to figure out a way that the Mavericks could trade for Pau Gasol. That's not to say they have anything working. But the Lakers clearly are amenable to dealing the big Spaniard and the Mavericks could pair him and Dirk together if they had both of them healthy.

Not only is Marion the right choice in terms of salary, but it is hard to say that LA would not like to reunite Marion and D'Antoni, two guys that made offensive magic in Phoenix all those years ago. The Lakers could slide Antawn Jamison or Marion into the starting lineup, making for a potent offensive group.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Might we see a Matrix-D'Antoni reunion?

Sefko notes that it's unlikely Marion gets traded, but if the team decides to check in on Gasol, there's certainly a way it can be done:

Remember, the Lakers got Gasol all those years ago for very little, although they did give up Gasol's brother Marc in the deal and he's turned into one of the best centers in the league. Bottom line: I don't think Marion's going anywhere, but it's not an absolute slam dunk. The Mavericks owe it to themselves and their fans to listen to all situations that come their way.

Because Gasol is making roughly $19 million this season, it is going to be extremely difficult to trade for him straight-up. Marion's salary for 2012-13 is $8.6 million, not nearly enough to cover the cost of bringing back Gasol.

It is unlikely the Lakers would want Chris Kaman back in any deal, meaning a third team would need to be recruited to avoid including Dirk Nowitzki in any deal (no chance).

Here's a three-team scenario where the Toronto Raptors are involved, and a four-team trade where the Utah Jazz are added to the mix. Again, nothing is imminent and those trades are not even close to being completed, but it does show there's certainly ways to get a deal done.

Looking at the Mavericks' roster after a trade for Gasol went down, they would then employ two of the best European forwards to every play the game on their front line. Since Marion would be gone, Vince Carter would likely join the starting lineup, while more playing time for rookie Jae Crowder is also a possibility.

Right now, the Mavericks are treading water. When Nowitzki comes back we will know more about how competitive this team can be against the game's elite, but I have a strong suspicion he will not solve the team's defensive issues or the rebounding struggles this team currently deals with on a nightly basis.

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For that matter, Gasol will not necessarily bring salvation on those two fronts. But bottom line—when you have the chance to add a player with a championship pedigree who is unhappy—you do it.

The Mavericks have made the most of the talent they have on the roster. OJ Mayo is a breakout star at the shooting guard position, but the rest of the roster is basically constructed with outcasts surrounding Dirk Nowitzki.

If the Mavericks want to make a play at an NBA title, they will do so by adding Gasol, who's game would Mesh well with Nowitzki's. Gasol's basketball IQ would be on full display in Rick Carlisle's flow offense. He'd also be reunited with Derek Fisher, forming an anti-Lakers party of such.

We will have to wait until mid-January to find out the fates of both these teams. Los Angeles and Dallas could both turn it around when former teammates Nash and Nowitzki return to their respective lineups.

If they do not, change will be had in the form of a trade. This one would bring Dallas to the forefront as a contender with a big three of Mayo, Gasol and Nowitzki.

Ethan Grant is the featured columnist for the Dallas Mavericks and a member of Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team.

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