Hold the presses — Pau Gasol is back on the trade block, again. The 33-year-old big man has consistently been the topic of trade discussions as a Los Angeles Laker the past few seasons.
He was one of the players the Lakers successfully traded to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal until Commissioner David Stern, acting as an owner at the time, nixed the trade due to “basketball reasons.”
Last year, before Gasol had even played a game for him, head coach Mike D’Antoni began criticizing him as a misfit in his offensive system. Gasol was later benched for a stretch of games while Earl Clark started in his place. D’Antoni and Gasol have been at odds ever since, taking mild shots at each other in the media which has continued into this season as well.
The corollary of that, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, is that the Lakers are strongly considering moving Gasol before the trade deadline and getting players that can help them win this year and build around Kobe Bryant next season. That would mean they’re willing to take back players with contracts beyond this season, limiting their chances in free agency this summer. The plan now is to prepare for the summer of 2015 and 2016, when Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and Kevin Durant are some of the big name players available.
The Lakers have currently contacted the New York Knicks about a potential Gasol-for-Tyson Chandler swap, plus fillers. Chandler is getting ready to return from a fractured leg and could give the Lakers the defensive minded big man they desperately need. He helped the Dallas Mavericks capture a title playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and shots for him are not an issue. The Lakers lack toughness on the interior and getting Chandler immediately improves that. Jordan Hill would start alongside him.
The Chicago Bulls are another team on the Lakers radar, with Carlos Boozer as a return possibility for Gasol. Only problem with acquiring Boozer is if you’re the Lakers, who do you have left to play reliable minutes at center? Robert Sacre, in limited starting opportunities this season, has shown he’s far from a starter in this league, right now at least. Boozer, who is averaging close to a double-double on the year, could space the floor at power forward in D’Antoni’s system though, as he loves to shoot more jumpers rather than bang inside.
A dark horse in the Gasol sweepstakes has to be the Atlanta Hawks. Paul Millsap, though he just signed a two-year deal with Atlanta this past summer, would be an ideal fit as a stretch four for D’Antoni. But again, the Lakers have to think about maybe acquiring a center in any Gasol trade because it’s going to leave them thin on the front line. Do the Lakers get a third team involved to bring back the exact pieces they want in trade for Gasol, or rush to trade him now and get something in return before he walks as a free agent?
Gasol’s name, like it has been the past few seasons, will continue to be one of the hottest names on the trading block leading up to the deadline on Feb. 20.