Recent reports suggest the Lakers are trying to ship out Gasol because they have no intention of re-signing him this offseason. According to longtime Lakers reporter Kevin Ding in an ESPN 710 interview (h/t Ryan Ward of LakersNation.com), Gasol is in a situation where "the Lakers are not going to bring him back barring a miracle."
As of today, Gasol is still a Laker and made his return Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks after missing four of the past six games with an upper respiratory infection. Los Angeles lost for a season-high sixth straight time and the Lakers' playoff hopes are growing dimmer by the day in the tough Western Conference.
There's been much hubbub over the potential Gasol-Andrew Bynum swap, something that could provide the cap-strapped Lakers with tremendous salary relief if completed before January 7.
That is the deadline for when Cleveland must decide whether or not to pick up Bynum's $12.25 million salary for this season. The Cavs—or anyone else who has Bynum—will obviously decline and reap the resulting cap space.
However, there are now numerous hitches to that deal. According to Mark Medina of InsidetheLakers.com, Los Angeles has no desire to bring back the erratic Bynum:
One, the Lakers have no desire to bring back Bynum. His role in bringing two NBA championships with the Lakers was soured with behavior issues before ultimately being part of a four-team traded that brought Dwight Howard to the Lakers last season. Bynum was also indefinitely suspended by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team. Bynum has only averaged 8.4 points on 41.9 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds in 20 minutes.
Secondly, the Lakers aren’t keen on the deal even if it would involve immediately waiving Bynum and saving up to $20 million in payroll and luxury taxes. The Lakers would owe Bynum $6 million of his $12.3 million salary if he was waived before Jan. 7.
Even if the Lakers were to change their minds, Cleveland now has a variable holding up its end of the deal. Kyrie Irving tweaked his knee Tuesday night, and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne suggest that Cleveland might be less willing to complete a win-now trade if its franchise point guard is out for long.
Lakers and Cavs continued to discuss trade involving Bynum and Gasol Tuesday. Wed. they await Kyrie's MRI results http://t.co/FAVSjLRgXN— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 1, 2014
It's hard to understand why the Lakers would not be amenable to taking in Bynum's salary and waiving him. Every penny is valuable for a team that has ambitions of surrounding Kobe Bryant with multiple superstars, even if such plans are likely unrealistic at the moment.
Moreover, though it is borderline blasphemous to suggest tanking for a proud franchise like the Lakers, there is really no better way to give Kobe a chance at a final ring in his twilight years.
If Los Angeles cannot afford multiple veteran superstars, the easiest way to circumvent that is simply through the draft, where relatively cheap labor can bear significant fruit.
Are the Lakers better off trading Pau Gasol?
Someone like LeBron or Carmelo Anthony is exceedingly unlikely to come to the Lakers in the current shape they are in.
But if Los Angeles lands a top draft pick and gets Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or someone of a similar ilk? The prospect of a young superstar makes the Lakers infinitely more attractive for not only the 2014 free-agent class, but also future classes that include LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and other stars.
For Los Angeles to move forward, however, it must take a step back first. That means dealing away Pau Gasol for cap space, even if doing so will send the Lakers plummeting down the Western Conference standings.