Pau Gasol (left) takes on San Antonio Spurs.
The Los Angeles Lakers are committed to several large player salaries, which gives them very little wiggle room for upgrading their roster. The one bargaining chip they can afford to dangle around the league is Pau Gasol.
Although he spent the bulk of the 2012-13 regular season being misused in Mike D’Antoni’s system, the coaching staff eventually figured out how to properly utilize the Spaniard. Gasol rewarded D’Antoni’s adjustments by consistently flirting with triple-doubles in the final month of the campaign.
Just when his value had hit rock bottom, Gasol flashed his brilliant all-around game as a big man and turned himself into a valuable commodity.
Heading into the 2013 offseason, general manager Mitch Kupchak needs the roster upgraded, but it comes with a qualifier: The additions cannot compromise the available salary cap the Lakers project to have in the summer of 2014.
LeBron James has an early-termination clause in his contract that allows him to enter free agency at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, and the Lakers will be suitors for his services.
It’s worth noting Dwight Howard will enter free agency once the 2013 postseason concludes. Thus, the Lakers must acquire quality talent for the sake of convincing him the Purple and Gold is serious about contending for a title immediately.
That alone might sway him into rejoining the franchise.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s have a look at what trade partners the Lakers should be entertaining discussions with concerning Gasol’s talents.
Marcus Thornton heats up real quick.
The Sacramento Kings have talented players. The problem they’ve faced for the past few years is the inability to mesh them all together.
Point guard play has been inconsistent in some respects, and their big men do not often play as their description would call for. For once, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a position to help their divisional rivals with a three-team trade involving the Denver Nuggets.
The Kings receive Pau Gasol from the Lakers and Andre Miller from the Nuggets. The Purple and Gold receives John Salmons and Marcus Thornton while Denver acquires Chuck Hayes.
In this deal, the Kings are bandits. For one season, they will have DeMarcus Cousins, Pau Gasol and Andre Miller together. The Kings become arguably the best passing frontcourt in the league and as a bonus get a solid point guard to run the offense.
Gasol becomes a free agent once the 2013-14 season ends, and the Kings get a plethora of cap room. Sacramento is no longer tied to players that barely fit and are locked into long-term contracts.
The Nuggets receive Hayes in an underrated but important move. The 2013 playoffs exposed Denver’s interior defense. Carl Landry of the Golden State Warriors had his way with Kenneth Faried on the low block and every other big man on the Nuggets’ roster.
Hayes is one of the best low-post defenders in the league and will negate that advantage against most teams.
The Lakers receive Thornton and Salmons in a transaction benefiting D’Antoni. Both love putting the ball up, and more importantly, Thornton can heat up in a hurry from long range. He is a 36.5 percent career three-point shooter, and in his five seasons, he’s attempted 4.6 treys per game.
The duo helps spell Kobe Bryant when he rests on the bench and can even play at his position early in the 2013-14 campaign if Bryant is still recovering from his ruptured Achilles.
In addition, the Lakers would hold a team option on Salmons’ contract for the 2014-15 season, which means they can simply let him walk. Thornton is under contract until the end of 2014-15, but his salary figure allows the Lakers to offer a maximum contract in the summer of 2014 (even with Dwight Howard on board).
The Big Ticket: Kevin Garnett.
Although this one might seem incredibly odd at first glance, the Lakers wouldn’t be doing their due diligence if they didn’t call Danny Ainge.
The Lakers can trade away Pau Gasol for Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.
Garnett is a power forward but can also play center in stretches. Not only could he spell Dwight Howard when he is resting, but he could also defend the best interior player on the opposing team.
Terry is a quality shooter who plays best off of others. Hence, paring him alongside Garnett, Howard and Kobe Bryant would greatly help him and consequently the Lakers.
This transaction compromises the Lakers’ 2014 salary cap in some fashion but not completely. Garnett and Terry will enter free agency at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
However, if the Purple and Gold renounce their free agents once the 2014 playoffs end and trade away Steve Nash (in this scenario, the assumption is that Howard has re-signed with the Lakers), they would have sufficient salary cap space to offer LeBron James a maximum contract.
One might initially believe the trade is one-sided in favor of the Lakers. In actuality, the transaction gives the Celtics Gasol for a season on an expiring contract. Hence, they can allow him to play out the year and use the salary cap to bring in free agents during the 2014 summer.
The other option at their disposal is finding another team with sufficient interest to acquire him. Boston would trade him for possibly draft picks or some young talent.
Danilo Gallinari (right) posts up Chris Paul (left).
Mike D’Antoni has long been a fan of Danilo Gallinari. Back when he coached the New York Knicks, he had the opportunity to watch him shoot and loved him.
Gallinari is a good small forward, but he also possesses the size to play as a stretch 4. Therefore, the Lakers can ship Pau Gasol over to the Denver Nuggets for Gallinari and Andre Miller.
Not only does this deal give the Lakers a player that fits D’Antoni’s system, but it also gives them a quality backup point guard who can occasionally start games when Nash is on the shelf.
Granted, Gallinari has a left knee injury that may scare away suitors. But he should be back in time for the first month of the season.
The Italian forward is signed until the end of the 2015-16 season while Miller is on the books until 2014-15. Consequently, acquiring both players would eat into the Lakers’ salary cap for the 2014 offseason.
However, trading away Steve Nash during that summer whilst renouncing the team’s free agents opens up the books for roughly a little over $20 million in cap room.
Nicolas Batum (right) defends Kobe Bryant (left) with his face.
The Portland Trail Blazers are always on the rise, or so it seems. For the past half decade or so, they have been the young team full of promise. However, unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, the youth hasn’t paid off.
In recent seasons, the Trail Blazers have taken steps back and have failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. A little veteran presence and help on the interior might be a welcomed addition.
The trade at their disposal: Pau Gasol for Nicolas Batum, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard.
Portland gets a big man to play next to LaMarcus Aldridge who can complement his skills for a season. Potentially, Gasol can re-sign with the Trail Blazers after the end of the 2013-14 season, or Portland can let him walk and have just about $20 million in cap space to spend on free agents.
The Lakers on the other end receive a young and athletic Batum to play both forward spots and stretch the floor. Leonard and Freeland would get redirected elsewhere and give the team a little financial flexibility.
Batum is under contract until the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, but his acquisition does not hinder the team’s future plans.
Depending on where the salary cap figure is set when the 2014 offseason kicks off, the Lakers should be able to offer a max-level contract. In the event their player commitments are too large, they can trade away Steve Nash.
Derrick Favors (left) and Luol Deng (right) at the basket.
Entering the 2013 offseason, the Utah Jazz could have roughly $30 million in cap room. Granted, they have their own free agents to re-sign, thus that amount probably gets cut down to half at the very least.
Utah will more than likely retain either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap (both are free agents). But things then get tricky for the Jazz.
Both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are good up-and-coming big men, but their contracts are structured in a manner that means Utah will have to spend large to keep both in consecutive seasons.
Per Hoopshype, Favors will get his qualifying offer in 2014-15 and then become eligible for a big payday. Kanter gets his qualifying offer in 2015-16 and will then look forward to a big extension the following season.
Keep in mind, the Jazz should in fact have the services of either Jefferson or Millsap still, depending on whomever they decide to keep. Basically, the Jazz can’t keep all three big guys.
The Lakers can help out with this proposal: Gasol for Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. Granted, the Jazz might want to hold onto Hayward. Thus, he can be substituted for in the deal with Alec Burks or Jeremy Evans.
The Jazz get Gasol for a season and he helps them compete for a playoff berth. Once the 2013-14 season closes, Utah will get an abundance of cap space.
Salt Lake City may not be an attractive free-agent destination, but the cap space is nonetheless important when the time arrives for them to re-sign their own players.
The Lakers do not get huge stars, but they get younger and cheaper talent on the roster. Favors is unlikely to regularly play at power forward for D’Antoni, but he would be a terrific backup center and could earn a few occasional minutes at power forward whenever the Lakers play big.
This move places more of an emphasis on the future, but it gives the Lakers some great financial flexibility. Not only are the Lakers shedding Gasol’s $19 million salary, but they are also acquiring a promising young forward who can also play the center position.
Granted, the Jazz might not want to part with Favors given his All-Star potential. Mitch Kupchak’s negotiations will nonetheless start with Favors and eventually shift towards Kanter.
Hence, the Lakers can discuss the exact same deal involving Favors, but instead swap Kanter into his place. The Purple and Gold still receives the same financial relief with this deal while the Jazz have a core of Favors and Gasol.
And again, Utah will probably retain either Millsap or Jefferson, which gives them a three-headed interior monster.
The Lakers still receive a young and promising big man capable of playing both frontcourt positions at a more than affordable price.
In a league starving for talented big men, a cheap one is a huge trade chip.