On Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers traded for 2002 Rookie of the Year and 2006 All-Star forward Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The 7-foot Spaniard was averaging about 19 points and 9 rebounds for the lowly Grizzlies, who were going nowhere this season, and fast.
In return, the Grizzlies received former number one pick Kwame Brown, rookie point guard Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Aaron McKie and Marc Gasol, and two future first-round picks for Pau.
It's obvious as to why the Lakers pulled the trigger on this trade: to get a big body who can replace injured center Andrew Bynum until he comes back. But why did the Grizzlies give up their best player, and a player who is a regular 20-10 guy, for an essentially underachieving center in Kwame Brown?
It's easy: to shave payroll.
At the present time, the Grizzlies are sitting at 13 wins, and are one of the worst teams in the league this year and last year. Grizzlies' General Manager Chris Wallace saw this move as a precursor to a potentially big spending summer coming up by getting rid of Pau's massive contract.
Gasol is slated to earn $49 million over the next three years. By trading away Gasol's contract, the next highest-paid player on the Grizzlies' roster is forward Mike Miller, slated to make about $8 million next year and $18.8 million over the next two years.
The Grizzlies should be well under the salary cap in the coming summers and could lure a big time free agent their way, but with the small market they play in, and the worse the present team gets, it's going to take a lot of money to convince a top-tier player to ink a contract with the Grizzlies.
While the Grizzlies were trying to stay afloat with Gasol, they're going to have a very tough time just keeping their heads above water without him. By making this trade the front office is telling the fans to be patient.
In Part Two, I will talk about the impact this trade will have on the Lakers.