The Los Angeles Lakers have a bevy of personnel upgrades to make before the start of the 2013-14 NBA campaign. Unfortunately for the Lakers franchise, they are frozen in anticipation of Dwight Howard's decision.
GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss are curiously willing to offer Howard a budget-strapping $118 million. While I don't agree with their decision, I'll outline the first trade they should execute after locking the deal down.
You guessed it, the seven-foot Spaniard Pau Gasol will be on the move.
Pau has given the Lakers everything he had to offer since coming over in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2007-08 season. Gasol's prime was when his inspired play helped Kobe Bryant get the Lakers two titles in 2009 and 2010.
Pau will turn 33 over the summer, but still has three to five good years of big-man basketball in him. His finesse near the basket—both in passing and finishing—rank him very high among players his size. Gasol can also dribble well enough to get to the basket in two bounces.
Defensively, Gasol is long and a decent rim protector, but gets pushed around by bigger centers. He is best used as a complementary scoring power forward as he was during the Andrew Bynum days.
Anyway, I digress. Bottom line is, if the Lakers front office executes its strategy, then another team will be lucky to have Pau Gasol for the remainder of his career.
As it stands today, the Lakers will pay Gasol $19.2 million next season before he becomes one free agent among a loaded 2014 class. Moving Gasol before the start of the season would afford L.A. a bit more financial flexibility to remain relevant.
It is in the Lakers' best interest to deal once again with the Houston Rockets. After acquiring James Harden last season for rookie-contract money—which they promptly updated to an $80 million offer—Houston is once again in great position to make a splash before another season gets under way.
They have a talented backcourt in Harden and Jeremy Lin. Chandler Parsons had a prominent role in a heated postseason series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and figures to be a good piece moving forward.
Unfortunately from the Los Angeles perspective, the better time to acquire blossoming talent like Parsons was before last season ended. Nonetheless, a Pau Gasol transaction with Houston would likely be centered around trying to land Omer Asik and a player like Parsons.
Asik would be a valuable backup to Dwight in the post and for less than half of what it would cost to keep Pau. Preparing the budget for a free-agent class coming in 2014 should be the Lakers' priority this year anyway.
Chandler Parsons is young—in fact just 24-years-old—and has the potential to be a valuable third or fourth option on a contending team. Whether or not the Lakers could put together a valuable-enough exchange is really the question.
I'd imagine that if L.A. were to pull it off, the deal would look something like this:
Lakers Get: Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik
Rockets Get: Pau Gasol, Steve Blake
Now, I don't think that Houston will be as inclined to make a deal with L.A. as it was before the 2012-13 season. Furthermore, I don't believe the Lakers have enough pieces to get it done.
Kupchak's options are limited this year despite only guaranteeing eight players money at this point. Kobe's $30 million deal is easily the biggest on the books.
One other option for the Lakers is to sign and trade Dwight Howard, and again Houston may be a likely destination. However, given that Kupchak has already gone out on a limb for D12, we can still only await his decision.
Enough of what I think. Here's what Kobe thinks.
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