5 Teams Guaranteed to Have an Interest in Trading for Pau Gasol
I'm not sure which direction the Los Angeles Lakers will take when it comes to the future of forward Pau Gasol, but if he is made available this offseason, there are at least a few teams that would be interested in acquiring the Spaniard.
Gasol is no longer the same player that he was in 2008, but he's still one of the most fundamentally skilled big men in the league, and the fact that his $19 million contract expires at the end of next season doesn't hurt, either.
It shouldn't be difficult to draw interest for a player who has Gasol's talent and an expiring $19 million contract to boot, and the following slides will explore the teams who will be standing at the front of the line if the Lakers place Gasol on the open market.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, there is little to no chance they will receive fair market value for Gasol if he is made available, so management must be creative by seeking a combination of young players and draft picks that offer a window into the future.
5. Charlotte Bobcats
Most people would assume the Charlotte Bobcats wouldn't be interested in taking on Gasol's huge contract considering the reluctance of owner Michael Jordan to spend large sums of money to acquire talent.
But actually, Gasol is just the type of player whom Jordan and the Bobcats should be seeking.
Acquiring Gasol would give Charlotte a bona fide star and anchor in the post who could provide valuable experience for young players such as Kemba Walker, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo.
Most importantly, if the situation with Gasol didn't work out, Jordan could call an end to the failed experiment at the end of the regular season and go back to his thrifty, miserly ways.
This deal could work for the Lakers because Charlotte does have a few young players who could certainly help L.A. going forward, like Gerald Henderson, not to mention Charlotte has multiple first-round draft picks that could be included in the deal.
4. Toronto Raptors
Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni prefers post players with the ability to stretch opposing defenses beyond the three-point line, and while Gasol does have perimeter skills, he is a much better player in the paint.
D'Antoni struggled to find ways to utilize Gasol during the 2012-13 regular season, and while they did seem to find a comfortable medium near the end, I'm sure D'Antoni would prefer a player who fits his vision of the Lakers' offense.
Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani could be that player, and if the Lakers are interested, he might be available.
Bargnani is a few years younger than Gasol, and he's very comfortable extending his jump shot beyond the three-point line. Bargnani only appeared in 35 games for the Raptors last season, while averaging the third-lowest point total of his seven-year career at 12.7 per game.
Maybe Bargnani just needs a change of scenery to rejuvenate his career, but it's doubtful the Lakers would make this trade without a few other compensatory pieces.
3. Atlanta Hawks
If the Lakers were ever really interested in acquiring Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, that time may have passed, but that doesn't mean a Gasol-to-the-Hawks scenario couldn't still work.
Gasol's ability to man the center position would allow forward Al Horford to exclusively play his more natural power forward position, and that front line would be one of the more formidable in the East.
But with Smith presumably out of the picture, what would the Lakers get in return?
A sign-and-trade deal might be out of the question under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, and while players like Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver might be attractive, would the Hawks be willing to part ways with them for Gasol?
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics would appear to be an unlikely trade partner for the Lakers considering their history as rivals, but that was before both teams suffered losses in the first round of the playoffs and were forced to re-evaluate their futures.
No one in Boston is sure if Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be Celtics next season, but I'm not sure if the Lakers would be interested in either player if they were available.
However, the Lakers might be interested in point guard Rajon Rondo.
If Boston does choose to rebuild, then Rondo would be the logical starting point assuming he makes a full recovery from an ACL injury, but would he want to stay on a Celtics team that's missing Garnett and Pierce?
Gasol's expiring contract might not be enough to convince Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to pull the trigger on a deal, but it could reach a point where he has no other choice if Rondo demands to be traded.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
The most intriguing potential trade partner for the Lakers may be the Minnesota Timberwolves due to the multitude of options that might be available.
Of course, the Lakers would probably want power forward Kevin Love in exchange for Gasol, but if Minnesota balks in that instance, there are still several other avenues the Lakers could take.
Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved are promising young players, and Minnesota also has other players like Nikola Pekovic whom the Lakers may be interested in as well.
Minnesota may also seem like a more likely destination for Gasol due to his close relationship with point guard Ricky Rubio, and I'm guessing if the Lakers do make Gasol available, this is the first place they might look.