Los Angeles Lakers Won't Find Pau Gasol Deal Worth Making

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIJanuary 3, 2014

Dec 23, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) and center Chris Kaman (9) react on the bench in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns won 117-90. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Los Angeles Lakers veteran big man Pau Gasol continues to see his name floated in trade rumors, but it has become increasingly clear that the Lakers won’t find a deal worth making, as any proposed swap is a dead end.

Most recently, a proposed deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers to exchange Gasol for disgruntled big man Andrew Bynum has stalled, according to Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

The article detailed why the deal hit a snag:

The major issue, sources said, involves the Lakers’ desire to get an additional asset from the Cavs beyond Bynum’s team-friendly contract, which could save the Lakers more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes. The Lakers are interested in also getting a young prospect or a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. The Cavs have been reluctant to part with either.

There are two sides to the coin in any Gasol trade scenario, and the tug of war between those sides continues to thwart a possible deal.


The Lakers’ Perspective

As detailed in the ESPN article, the Lakers are not going to trade Gasol merely to dump salary. Swapping the 33-year-old for Bynum could have saved Purple and Gold more than $20 million all told, but the Lakers wanted more chips (young players and/or draft picks) added to the pot.

The problem with that philosophy is Gasol simply isn’t worth that type of trade haul anymore.

Not only is his contract set to expire at season’s end, but he’s also entering the twilight of his career and he’s not the player he once was. The Spaniard is averaging 15.1 points per game—an improvement from the 13.7 he averaged last season—but he’s shooting a career-low 44.3 percent from the field.

That field-goal percentage ranks Gasol 87th among qualified players, behind perimeter guys like Martell Webster, Rodney Stuckey and Trevor Ariza.

Gasol hasn’t been his best this year (putting it nicely), but his presence still makes the Lakers a better team. Moving him just to get rid of his salary or add spare parts from another NBA team would only help L.A. tank, which isn’t an attitude Kobe Bryant will tolerate.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers enjoy a laugh during the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

“It’s funny; I’ve read all the comments and things like that,” Bryant said following news he had suffered a knee fracture, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “It can’t help but feed into my focus. It’s obviously not something I wanted to have happen. From that standpoint you have to look at the injury for exactly what it is.”

Regarding an eventual return, Bryant said, “My philosophy on that stuff is to do your job. ... You owe it to your organization and your teammates to get back as fast, as quickly, as you possibly can and as strong as you possibly can,” according to Spears.

Does that sound like Bryant intends to shut it down and return in 2014-15? Not to me.

Also, considering Bryant posted a photo with Gasol to his Instagram account after Dwight Howard announced he was going to Houston, it’s hard to imagine he’d be pleased with management deciding to deal his longtime teammate—especially if it doesn't make this team better immediately.

The Lakers aren’t going to deal their two-time champion unless they get serious value in return. Unfortunately for those in Lakerland, netting young players or draft picks for an aging veteran isn’t feasible.

The Field’s Perspective

Just so we're clear, the Lakers want a first-round draft pick for a 33-year-old, $19 million rental shooting a career-worst from the field? Good luck with that.

That’s been the thought process of opposing general managers involved in a potential Gasol trade.

If another team acquired the Spaniard right now, that team would add his services for roughly four months. Sacrificing the potential a first-round pick could bring three to five years down the road isn’t worth the short-term gain Gasol can bring at this point in his career—especially since he isn’t a long-term building block at 33 years old.

The Cavaliers aren’t even in the playoff picture, so surrendering a potential lottery pick for $19 million worth of Gasol would be a huge misstep, even if it meant dealing Bynum, who can simply be waived prior to Jan. 7 to save money.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 26:  Andrew Bynum #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena on December 26, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

If an NBA team truly wanted to add the Lakers’ big man, the best plan of action may be waiting and targeting him in free agency. Said team could sign him on its own terms and not have to give up any assets in the process.

If the 2014 NBA draft class didn’t appear so promising and deep, perhaps a team would roll the dice for a potentially rejuvenated Gasol. However, the incoming NBAers appear to be extremely talented.

Closing Thoughts

The Lakers don’t want to move Gasol without getting young players or draft picks in return. Opposing teams don’t want to give up young talent for a guy, set to be a free agent, who has struggled from the field.

The end result is a trade stalemate.

The Lakers may think that the veteran is worth a first-round pick since they’ve traded their own first-rounders for Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill and Steve Nash in recent years. However, NBA teams just haven’t been eager to sweeten the pot for the Lakers because L.A. isn’t in a position to negotiate.

Ultimately, it doesn’t appear as if a suitor will step forward and offer the Lakers a deal worth making.

That’s not the end of the world for Los Angeles, though, since Gasol’s expiring contract translates to cap space in 2014.


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