According to ESPN's Marc Stein, that's exactly what they're considering:
Gasol has routinely been linked to trade rumors since the 2011 lockout. Most recently, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported the Lakers were discussing a financially driven trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum. Once the Cavs shipped Bynum to the Chicago Bulls, however, Gasol was left in purple and gold.
Now, he could be on his way to sporting purple without the gold.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers' four-time All-Star.
One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor's $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol's $19.3 million.
A trade for Okafor's expiring deal would not save the Lakers as much as a deal for Bynum would have, but it would come with undeniable financial benefits. The $4.8 million difference between Gasol's cap number and Okafor's would immediately drop the Lakers less than $3 million away from the league's luxury-tax threshold, meaning one more smaller deal before the Feb. 20 trade deadline could conceivably be enough to take them out of tax territory completely.
As Stein suggests, the financial benefits of moving Gasol for cap relief alone should intrigue the Lakers.
Los Angeles is footing over $79 million for a team tied for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Okafor's contract is worth roughly $14.5 million this season, but 80 percent of the amount he's still owed became covered by insurance after he failed to appear in Phoenix's first 41 games, per Stein.
The Suns have plenty to offer in way of tangible assets, too. Per RealGM.com, they could have up to four first-round draft picks this year alone, and they also own Los Angeles' 2015 first-rounder (top-five protected).
Back in December, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com reported that the Suns were open to trading one of their many draft picks in exchange for an impact player. At 33 and set to enter unrestricted free agency this summer, Gasol doesn't qualify as a superstar, but he would add versatile size to a Phoenix team firmly entrenched in the Western Conference's playoff picture.
Gasol, who is currently nursing a groin injury, also averaged 20.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game on 51 percent shooting throughout the month of January. There's clearly some miles and valuable production left on those legs of his.
Assuming the cost won't be excessive, he makes sense for Phoenix, giving it immediate firepower without compromising the team's long-term flexibility. The question, as it's always been, is: Will the Lakers pull the trigger?
While the Lakers have dangled Gasol in countless negotiations, they've always found him more valuable than what's being offered. Well below .500, and 10.5 games back of a playoff spot, now may be the time to move him for anything in return.
Trading Gasol allows them to continue tanking without actually tanking. The team is bad enough as it is, even if Kobe Bryant returns to form. Moving Gasol simply ensures the Lakers stay that way.
"It's been quiet the last couple of weeks," Gasol said of trade rumors during a postgame interview following Los Angeles' 110-103 loss to the New York Knicks on Jan. 26, as translated by HoopsHype.com. "Anyway once we get closer to the trade deadline, it will be the same thing all over again."
Apparently, Gasol was right. This is the same old process all over again.
Maybe this time, though, it will be the "same thing" with a different ending.
*Salary information via ShamSports.
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