Game Plan to Get Pau Gasol Back in a Memphis Grizzlies Uniform

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Game Plan to Get Pau Gasol Back in a Memphis Grizzlies Uniform
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For the Memphis Grizzlies, pairing Pau Gasol with his brother Marc has to be awfully alluring, especially given the uncertain contract situations of Zach Randolph and Ed Davis.

The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, have toyed with the idea of trading Gasol recently, and perhaps sending him back to Memphis where it all began would be considered for the right price.

 

 

Problem is, the Grizzlies don't currently have the means to acquire Pau and unite the two brothers on the same team. Los Angeles almost certainly has no interest in Randolph, as his player option worth $16.9 million next year could potentially soak up nearly all of the cap space it has worked so hard to maintain.

Finding another salary match for Pau on Memphis' roster is nearly impossible, mainly because Memphis has so few expiring contracts. These two teams may have a family connection, but they aren't compatible trading partners.

That doesn't mean Pau can't return to Memphis to join Marc, though. It might just take a little creativity.

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

 

Offseason Maneuvering

The most obvious path for the Grizzlies to acquire Gasol would be this offseason in free agency, but a chain of events needs to take place first.

First and foremost, Randolph would have to decline his player option. That's the biggest hurdle, mainly because it's hard to see Randolph doing that without the promise of a long-term contract somewhere.

Although Randolph is still a very productive player, he is a declining one. Finding a substantial three- or four-year deal may be difficult, but it sounds like Randolph might be ready to try, according to a report from CBSSports.com's Ken Berger:

League sources expect Randolph, 32, to opt out and try to score one more multi-year deal. But two people familiar with the situation say Memphis is not out of the mix to retain Randolph in such a scenario. The team is determined not to lose Randolph for nothing, so unless Randolph expresses a strong desire to leave -- which he hasn't -- there's no immediate pressure to trade him.

Even if Randolph does opt out, the Grizzlies will still have to navigate Ed Davis' contract situation. So long as the Grizzlies make a qualifying offer worth $3.1 million, Davis will be a restricted free agent going into the offseason. If another team comes in with a big offer, Memphis may have to choose between Randolph and Davis if they want to stay under the luxury tax next year or address other needs on the roster outside of the power forward position.

Considering the hesitancy of many teams to tie up money in restricted free agents right off the bat, however, perhaps the Grizzlies could sneak Gasol in once Randolph declined his player option for a contract starting at about $10 million a year or so.

Would Gasol be a better option than Randolph? That's a fair question to ask at this point, but Pau would seem to be a more likely candidate to come on a short-term deal, which should be more attractive to the Grizzlies' front office.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

Finding Another Partner

Maybe the only sure way to get Randolph off the books and Pau back with the Grizzlies is through a trade. As explained before, Memphis and Los Angeles will have a hard time dealing straight up with one another for a big deal like this, but it's a good sign that the two teams have had talks about other players, according to Bleacher Report's own Ric Bucher:

The Memphis Grizzlies are clearly looking to shake up their roster. While the Zach Randolph-to-New Orleans rumors were dismissed by a league source, a Lakers source says they were offered a swap of scoring guards, Jerryd Bayless for Jodie Meeks.

Getting Pau to Memphis would almost certainly require getting a third team involved with interest in Randolph. There are a few options that would likely take on Randolph's deal so long as it came attached with other assets, like draft picks and young players. The Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics, for example, should have the expiring deals necessary in that scenario.

Trading a draft pick or a young player just to swap Randolph with Gasol doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Memphis, however. Ideally, they'd find a partner who actually covets Randolph and would be willing to take on his salary if he opted in next year.

Although it's not a perfect fit, that team might be the Charlotte Bobcats

Kent Smith/Getty Images

 

The Trade

Charlotte Bobcats Receive: PF Zach Randolph (2 years, $35.1 million), PG/SG Jerryd Bayless (1 year, $3.1 million), SG Nick Young (2 years, $2.2 million) and Memphis' 2014 (via Philadelphia) and 2016 second-round pick (via Toronto).

Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG Ben Gordon (1 year, $13.2 million). PG Ramon Sessions (1 year, $5 million) and Charlotte's 2014 first-round pick via Portland.

Memphis Grizzlies Receive: PF/C Pau Gasol (1 year, $19.3 million) and SG Jodie Meeks (1 year, $1.6 million).

 

Why Charlotte Does It: The Bobcats are hovering right around .500, but there's plenty of reason for playoff optimism. The Eastern Conference being weak is probably the biggest reason, but Charlotte's surprising second-ranked defense is another. 

For as good as Charlotte's defense has been, however, their offense has been equally bad at 29th in the league in efficiency. Adding another low-post option in Randolph would certainly help, and his preference to play on the right side of the floor may mesh a little better than you'd think with Al Jefferson, who loves to play on the left block.

Considering that Ben Gordon is giving the Bobcats nothing right now, this would be a good move for a playoff push, even if Randolph opted out and became a rental. If Randolph stayed, Charlotte would have a pretty intimidating offensive frontcourt for next year without a long-term commitment.

Losing Sessions and a first-round pick would be tough, but Young could provide some offensive firepower at the 2 or 3 while Bayless could slide into Sessions' role.

The pick sacrificed (via Portland) should be at the end of the first-round anyhow, and Charlotte owes Chicago their own pick, so there's no danger in trying to win as many games as possible.

In addition to that, Charlotte's owed pick from Detroit (top-8 protected) should come to fruition, so it's not like Charlotte would be getting out of the draft completely. The addition of two second-round picks should lessen some of the blow as well.

 

Why Los Angeles Does It: Landing a first-round pick for anyone not named Kobe Bryant should be a no-brainer for Los Angeles, and this trade is no exception. Even though the pick should be toward the tail-end of the first round, it's a great asset to have in one of the better draft classes we've seen in quite some time.

If there was a chance to retain Gasol's Bird Rights and maintain cap room for another max player, this deal wouldn't make sense. That's not the case though, and Gasol is as good as gone if the Lakers want to have spending room in free agency this offseason.

Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions are nothing more than expiring contracts, but at least Sessions fills a need in the meantime and could possibly be convinced to come back on the cheap in free agency at a later date. The Lakers would also reduce this year's luxury tax payment, which would be a nice bonus.

Again though, this is all about the first-round pick. 

 

Why Memphis Does It: The Gasol brothers would undoubtedly be a productive duo, as we've seen what the pair is capable of doing on a basketball court during international play in Spain. Pau and Marc are more easily interchangeable in the high and low post than Randolph and Gasol are, and the added passing should help boost Memphis offensively without a drop-off defensively.

If the Grizzlies are going to replace an idol in the Memphis area like Randolph, Pau is one of the only acceptable replacements. His time spent in Memphis may not have been very successful, but he's one of the better guys in the league you can add to a community. It's hard not to be a fan.

Which team would win this proposed deal?

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Financially, this would create some flexibility as well. Removing the "will he or won't he?" question with Randolph would provide some clarity, and it would likely make retaining Davis and staying under the tax easier as well.

Although it seems unlikely, Memphis could also take the cap space, renounce all rights to Pau and see what happens in free agency. That's probably not as much of an option with Randolph, since he could easily just opt in to his deal.

Moving Randolph would be risky, but teaming the Gasol brothers up could potentially get things back on track for the Grizzlies.

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