L.A. is out of contention and, as of Tuesday, Feb. 4, tied for the worst record in the loaded Western Conference. The team has struggled with injury and inconsistency all year long, extinguishing what slim hopes fans had for this group during the preseason.
As per John Hollinger’s playoff odds (courtesy of ESPN), the Lakers have a zero percent chance of making it to the postseason, and that should be all the motivation this tax-paying team needs to start working the phones and finding a suitable deal or two.
Fortunately, Los Angeles holds assets that both contending organizations and rebuilding franchises could be interested in. Pau Gasol and his expiring contract is the most likely piece to be moved, but don’t underestimate general manager Mitch Kupchak. He could find a way to maneuver the team under the tax threshold with a series of trades over the next few weeks.
Let’s take a peek at the rumor mill and see what some of the deals concerning L.A. look like.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has the latest on Pau Gasol's future with the Lakers:
For those wondering, there is no deal pending for Pau Gasol at deadline, league source says. Lakers set to keep him, and his Bird rights.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) February 20, 2014
Lakers, Nets progressing on Jordan Hill deal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Ownership showing willingness to take $17M hit.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2014
Lakers have been engaged in conversations elsewhere on Jordan Hill too, sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2014
ESPN's Marc Stein reports that another team is also interested in Hill:
Hearing now that Cavs have strongly emerged as team trying to trump BKN and acquire Jordan Hill from Lakers. Looks like Cavs & Nets for Hill— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2014
Stein later followed with more details surrounding a potential Hill trade:
New wrinkle in Jordan Hill trade talks: Word is Lakers are seeking second-round pick as part of deal on top of dumping Hill's salary— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
All three teams (Nets, Pelicans and #eventhehawks) possess Disabled Player Exception to take Jordan Hill without sending Lakers player back— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Quite a dance playing out on Jordan Hill front. Lakers want pick for Hill. But I'm told Nets want pick from Lakers for saving them $7+ mil— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has the latest on the Lakers' attempts to move Hill:
The Lakers' hopes of moving Jordan Hill and further trimming their tax bill are faint at this point, league source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) February 20, 2014
Late Wednesday night the Lakers Twitter account confirmed that they had traded Steve Blake to the Warriors in exchange for Kent Bazemore and Marshon Brooks:
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reports the Lakers are considering the value of moving several players heading into this year's trade deadline:
The Lakers have concurrently had talks about Kaman, Hill, Blake and several other players. Sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk that Brooklyn and the Lakers have had trade discussions about Hill.
Shelburne also reported the Lakers may be inclined to retain Pau Gasol:
The Los Angeles Lakers have been weighing the benefits of holding on to the perpetually dangling Pau Gasol for the rest of the season to maintain his Bird rights this summer, against trading him before Thursday's trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
However, sources said the Lakers have remained resolute in every trade discussion not to trade Gasol without acquiring an asset in return, and that there is a growing sentiment within the organization that it could be more valuable to hold on to Gasol and his Bird rights as he becomes a free agent and the organization has substantial room under the salary cap for the first time in years.
The Lakers and Mavericks are trying to assemble trade offers for prospective free agent Kevin Love, but thus far the Timberwolves have given no indication they'll consider moving the All-Star forward by Thursday's deadline, league sources told CBSSports.com.
Love will be a free agent in 2015, and it is widely known around the league that he and his agent, New York-based Jeff Schwartz, are determined to get him to a major market. The Lakers, Love's first choice, "have the best shot" of landing the Southern California native, one person familiar with the player's thinking said. There is no incentive in the CBA for Love to sign an extension with Minnesota before he has a chance to decline his player option and hit the open market in July 2015.
With the trade deadline jut two days away, things are really starting to heat up in LA. But the question remains, do the Lakers have enough assets to swing a deal for one of the best forward's in the league?
Updates from Tuesday, Feb. 18
After initial talks led nowhere, the Suns and Lakers have re-engaged in discussion over Pau Gaol according to Alex Kennedy of basketballinsiders.com:
Rival executives believe the Lakers and Suns will resume trade talks, with Pau Gasol ultimately being traded to Phoenix.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 19, 2014
They believe L.A. will deal Gasol rather than lose him in summer. Gasol has been looking into FA destinations and is expected to leave L.A.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 19, 2014
The executives believe Pau Gasol is the best player Phoenix can realistically get for Emeka Okafor's insured, expiring contract.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 19, 2014
The Phoenix Suns have surprisingly found themselves in contention for a coveted playoff spot this coming spring.
Unsurprisingly, their team brass is now entertaining the possibility of bringing in a veteran star to augment this inexperienced group and bolster its chances of advancing deeper into the postseason.
As per ESPN’s Marc Stein, Pau Gasol is one of Phoenix’s top targets, and the club has been exploring options to bring him to the desert ahead of the trade deadline.
Stein noted that injured big man Emeka Okafor (who hasn’t played in 2013-14 due to a neck injury) and a $5.6 million trade exception would likely be the centerpiece of any deal between these two Pacific Division rivals, a move that would save L.A. a lot of money this season:
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.
Gasol started the season poorly but has bounced back in a big way. He averaged a double-double in January, putting up 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds during the month. While he’s currently nursing a strained groin, the 13-year veteran should be back in the lineup shortly as he just received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection to help aid his recovery.
The 33-year-old Spaniard definitely still has something left in the tank, which is why the Lakers need to get him off the roster in order to bottom out and nab a top spot in the draft lottery.
Gasol is one of the last remaining vestiges of elite talent on this team, as star guard Kobe Bryant remains sidelined nursing a knee injury, and Steve Nash hasn’t been anything close to resembling the same player he was during his tenure in Phoenix.
He’d be an immense help for the Suns, whose GM—Ryan McDonough—admitted to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that the club would be seeking out a star player due to its plethora of assets, including up to four first-round picks in the upcoming draft:
Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them [picks]. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.
Given that the Lakers are looking to launch a full-scale rebuilding effort this upcoming summer, even one of those picks has to look immensely enticing and could be the catalyst for a Gasol trade in the coming days.
There hasn’t been much buzz about the Lakers taking on salary for the coming offseason, but that’s exactly what this team would be doing if it acquired Taj Gibson from the Chicago Bulls.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Lakers were one of three franchises to strike up “preliminary talks” with the Bulls about the availability of the 28-year-old big man.
While Gibson has been a useful reserve for a Chicago team that has made multiple playoff runs during his five-year career, he doesn’t have much upside and is still due more than $27 million on a contract that runs through the 2016-17 season.
On the bright side, the USC product is currently averaging a respectable 12.3 points on 48.6 percent shooting, plus 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 assist per game—all career highs or quite close to his best numbers.
The Bulls would love to clear his salary from their books, as removing his contract from their payroll would be the difference between offering a marquee free agent like Carmelo Anthony a max contract and having to somehow convince the superstar to take subpar money.
However, L.A. likely wouldn’t be foolish enough to absorb Gibson’s deal and only give expiring contracts in return. Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk hypothesized that Chicago would have to take Steve Nash back, a veteran whose contract doesn’t expire until next summer.
It appears that a maneuver like this would not work well for either party and the likelihood of a Gibson-to-Los Angeles swap is very slim at this juncture. The Lakers have too much riding on the upcoming offseason to destroy their flexibility by acquiring a mediocre talent.