According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to trade into the first round of the 2013 NBA draft. Amico's sources state that at the heart of a potential deal could be none other than walking rumor mill Pau Gasol.
The question is, who would be the most ideal trade partners for L.A. to move up in the draft?
As it presently stands, the Lakers will not have the opportunity to draft a prospect until the 18th pick of the second round. They traded their first-round draft choice to the Phoenix Suns as a part of the Steve Nash trade and have thus found themselves in familiar territory.
The Lakers haven't picked in the first round since 2009, when they traded their selection, Toney Douglas, to the New York Knicks for a second-rounder and cash.
Furthermore, L.A. hasn't drafted in the first round and kept their pick since 2007. That was the year in which they landed Javaris Crittenton, whom they traded in the midst of his rookie season as a part of the Pau Gasol deal.
So when did they actually draft in the first round and hold on to their pick?
The last time the Lakers drafted in the first round and kept their selection for at least one season was 2006, when they landed Jordan Farmar. Farmar proceeded to be a key player on two Lakers title teams.
In case you were wondering why the Lakers have no youth or athleticism, that recap should answer all of your questions—so who could help them cure those woes?
Atlanta Hawks (No. 17 and No. 18)
The Atlanta Hawks are a team in instant rebuild mode, as they have the necessary cap space to build a contender but hardly anyone left on their roster. If there is one player worth noting, however, it's power forward Al Horford, who is in dire need of a dominant center alongside him.
Enter Pau Gasol.
Gasol and the Hawks have been linked before, as there were rumors circulating that he could be dealt in exchange for Josh Smith. Now, Atlanta could acquire the Spaniard for the low price of one or two mid-first-round draft choices.
Areas in which Atlanta is unlikely to find greater value than Gasol—a Hall of Fame power forward that can still take over games.
For a Hawks team that has hardly anything but youth under contract, the idea of losing draft choices isn't so devastating. They have two second-rounders, but more importantly, they have mountains of cap space.
Even with the acquisition of Gasol, they could land at least one more superstar.
As for the Lakers, they need to acquire young, athletic legs, and there are likely to be those types of players at No. 17 and No. 18. Even if they are to fail in acquiring an elite prospect, they'll create athletic depth on a roster that needs just that.
Since 2005, the No. 17 pick has produced the likes of Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Jrue Holiday and Iman Shumpert. intrigued?
Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 9 and No. 26)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been linked to Pau Gasol for quite some time now. As for how long they've had interest, the T-Wolves were reported to be in pursuit of Gasol via trade during the summer of 2012.
Why not now?
This is one of the weakest drafts in recent memory, and there's a strong possibility that Minnesota fails to land a player anywhere close to Gasol's caliber at No. 9. With a healthy Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko and Ricky Rubio, there's also a core in place to make a push for the postseason.
All they need is the superstar to put them over the edge.
Gasol can be that player, as he remains one of the most dynamic big men in the NBA. On top of being able to pass out of the post, he's still a nightly double-double threat that's a significantly better defender than Nikola Pekovic.
The question here is simple—do you want to build a title contender or hope that a player from this year's weak draft pans out? Also, why wouldn't you want to placate your franchise point guard by acquiring one of his countrymen?
The intrigue is present.
If L.A. were to play its cards right, it could work its way into the top 10 and land one of the better players in this draft. That isn't too powerful of a statement, but the Lakers need athletes along the perimeter and local product Shabazz Muhammad instantly comes to mind.
Regardless of which route they take, moving into the first round to land an athletic playmaker is a necessity here, and landing the No. 26 pick wouldn't be out of the question.
Washington Wizards (No. 8)
The Washington Wizards are one player away from becoming a scary team in the Eastern Conference. If you don't believe that, then stop allowing reputations to confuse you and check the facts.
Washington was eighth in scoring defense, ninth in rebounding and went 24-25 once John Wall returned from his injury—all of that came without an interior scoring presence.
By adding Pau Gasol, Washington would instantly become a playoff team and be able to compete against a rather pedestrian Eastern Conference. Overcoming the Miami Heat is another topic, but entering the postseason is the next step for this team.
As for their possibilities at No. 8, why take a player that could be Gasol, Alex Len, when you can have the actual player?
For the Lakers, a trade into the top 10 would open up their possibilities and enable them to land one of the draft's premier athletes. That includes the potential to select anyone from Anthony Bennett to Shabazz Muhammad, thus improving their flat-footed forward spots.
For a Lakers team that may be willing to part ways with one of our generation's greatest, it's all about maximizing value.
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