The question is, where would be the most ideal situations for Gasol to end up?
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Gasol is well aware of the fact that his future with the Lakers is uncertain. After roughly two calendar years of trade rumors, it's none too surprising to hear that Gasol is conscious of what could be.
This time around, however, it's what wasn't said that has Gasol thinking long-term.
“[Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak] couldn’t really tell me, ‘Hey, thanks for everything you’ve done, it’s more likely you’re going to be gone,’ or no, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to stay here. We’re going to make it happen,’” Gasol said. “Which is to be expected. I appreciate Mitch’s honesty and everything that he’s done and the franchise has done for the last two years to keep me here and have me on the team.”
If Gasol is to be traded, it will be the end of what has been nothing short of an illustrious Lakers career. With two NBA championships to his name, the Spaniard has done everything asked of him and will thus go down as one of the best European imports in league history.
The question is, where would Gasol continue his career in a perfect world?
The Atlanta Hawks have a high-quality power forward in Al Horford that is desperate for a back-to-the-basket partner at center. Horford is a lethal mid-range jump shooter and an underrated defender, but he's been playing out of position and without consistent support.
Atlanta has significant cap space and Gasol is the caliber of player to woo another star into signing on with the Hawks—how's that for support?
If a deal were executed, Atlanta could potentially end up with a pairing of Gasol, Horford and point guard Jeff Teague. Furthermore, scoring guard Lou Williams will be back once he recovers from a torn ACL and rookie John Jenkins displays promise as a sharpshooter.
To put it simply, the core is present but the superstar isn't.
Even if there is to be turnover in Atlanta, the tandem of Horford and Gasol would be of an elite nature. With a fast rising point guard, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and a sharpshooting rookie, what's not to like?
With the proper offseason execution, you could be looking at a legitimate title contender in Atlanta with Gasol under contract. Unfortunately, they don't appear to have the trade pieces to get the deal done.
The Houston Rockets have mountains of cap space, the need for an elite interior player and valuable youth to get a trade done. Most importantly, they're a team that presents Pau Gasol with the opportunity to compete for a title.
What more could you ask for?
The Rockets have two key untouchables in James Harden and Chandler Parsons, who form one of the best young perimeters in the NBA. They also have a quality center in Omer Asik and a young power forward in Thomas Robinson, thus presenting Gasol with positional versatility.
Regardless of whom would be in the front court with him, Gasol would see the ball hit his hands as he works with his back to the basket and facilitates out of the high post.
Furthermore, the acquisition of Gasol wouldn't hinder the Rockets as significantly as other teams from a financial perspective. They would still be in the market for another superstar and could thus pair Gasol and Harden with another force to create a Big Three.
Keep in mind, the Rockets would have acquired Gasol in the infamous Chris Paul trade if it hadn't been vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern.
The Indiana Pacers present an intriguing option for the Los Angeles Lakers, as they have a potential trade piece in small forward Danny Granger. With L.A. lacking length and a consistent three-point shooter, Granger could be an attractive option with his expiring contract.
As for the Pacers, David West's contract is expiring and there would be no better replacement than Pau Gasol.
Gasol would team with an elite interior defender in Roy Hibbert, thus creating a similar situation to when he played with Andrew Bynum. The difference is that Hibbert commands less touches and is a similarly proficient passer to Gasol.
Having those two dominate the interior would be nothing short of a treat for a team that's greatest strengths are their size and defensive prowess.
Gasol would be paired with an athletic young star with three-point shooting ability in Paul George. Seeing as Gasol helped Kobe Bryant to a title, the concept here would be that a tandem of he and Hibbert could help George and the Pacers achieve the same.
George may not be Kobe, but this is a disciplined Pacers team that appears to be one star away from legitimate championship contention—Gasol can be that star.
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