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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:
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.