The Los Angeles Lakers have long been rumored to be exploring possible trades for veteran power forward Pau Gasol. While no deals have come to fruition involving the 33-year-old Spaniard, that could change ahead of the Feb. 20 deadline.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears, the Lakers brass have been shopping around the league for a potential taker for Gasol. With more than five weeks to go before the NBA puts the kibosh on trades for the season, there is a decent chance that L.A unearths a decent deal for the big man.
While it was widely reported that L.A. was having discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers that would have sent Gasol to Ohio in exchange for former teammate Andrew Bynum, the Cavs brass decided to go in another direction and flipped the slumping center, along with three draft picks, to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.
L.A. was seeking cap relief in that trade, hoping to re-acquire the player it drafted No. 10 overall back in 2005 and subsequently cut him before Jan. 7 in order to avoid paying a guaranteed salary to the 26-year-old—which is what exactly what Chicago wound up doing to get under the luxury tax threshold.
However, with Gasol’s recent resurgence, there is a chance that the Lakers will be able to bring in more assets closer to the deadline. The 13-year veteran returned from a two-game absence on New Year’s Eve and has been playing extremely well in the four contests since.
During that stretch, Gasol is averaging 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and an impressive 3.0 blocks per game in 36.5 minutes. This renewed energy on both ends of the floor has resulted in just one win, but it is rapidly improving the 7-footer’s stock around the league.
Both contenders and tanking teams may be willing to take on Gasol, as his $19 million-plus expiring contract is an immensely valuable asset this coming offseason. His recent stretch of top-tier play would also make him a welcome addition to a title hopeful.
Either way, the buzz surrounding Gasol is not going to die down anytime soon and his teammates are now used to it. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, Lakers guard Nick Young recently spoke about his feelings on the swirling rumors:
I'm pretty sure it'll come back up. That's what comes with being a Laker. We're still getting used to it, but we'll be OK. …that's one thing you were thinking about. If they get rid of Pau, it's basically saying it's over. But we all feel that faith and still think something can happen.
Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding offered up his findings on what direction the Lakers' front office may be inclined to take, which could be an attempted playoff run once Kobe Bryant is back on the floor and healthy:
In any case, the Lakers refusing to make a strictly cost-cutting trade, even at a time when so many in the organization aren’t thrilled with Gasol, is staying true to Jerry Buss’ competitive spirit and leaving open the possibility of another late-season burst of admittedly minor success once Bryant gets healthy.
Expect the Lakers to continue dangling the improving Gasol as trade bait to either clear cap room or acquire future assets ahead of a loaded 2014 draft. Los Angeles is not out of contention yet, but at 14-21, this team could soon slip deep into the lottery hunt and may just be willing to jettison the power forward for the best offer that comes along.