A Phoenix Suns trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol would be…terrific? Perfect? A jackpot? A match made in heaven? The fact of the matter is, the Suns have changed directions and believe they could make a run in the Western Conference with one more veteran big man. Gasol fits the bill in a number of different ways and would be ideal.
Gasol has appeared in 105 playoff games, mostly with the Lakers. He won back-to-back championships and was an integral part of those teams from 2008-10. He’ll never be the leading man, but as a secondary option, there weren’t much better choices. His averages of 17.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 blocks over his playoff career rival all but the most elite big men in basketball history.
We have to remember that the Suns, especially the Suns big men, don’t have a lot of experience playing in the playoffs. Miles Plumlee watched from the bench last season, Alex Len is a rookie, Markieff Morris has yet to see a playoff game and Marcus Morris is in the same boat. The only Suns player with extended playoff experience is Channing Frye.
WOULDN’T HURT CAP POSITION
One of the benefits the Suns have right now is the fact they’re in good position as it relates to the salary cap. They’ve got close to $6 million available right now, which is why they’d be able to absorb the extra money that Gasol makes. However, since Gasol will become a free agent at the end of the season, the Suns aren’t affecting their future prospects by pulling the trigger on a trade.
Gasol would essentially be trying out for the Suns, to see how he fits into coach Jeff Hornacek‘s uptempo system. If the Suns decided he was a good fit, they could choose to re-sign him. If not (or if a better opportunity comes along), they could simply let Gasol go and still have the money to go after someone else.
NOT SACRIFICING MUCH
In the grand scheme of things, the Suns likely won’t have to give up that much for essentially renting Gasol for a few months. They’ll definitely have to give up Emeka Okafor and his expiring deal, but if it’s not for Gasol, that contract is going somewhere anyways. The sticking point in the deal will be whether the Suns have to give up a lot more in order to get Pau.
In all likelihood, the Suns will have to give up one of their first-round draft picks in the upcoming draft. While it’s a stacked draft at the top, the Suns would be giving away a middle-rounder anyways. Those picks are a crapshoot at best, while Gasol is a known commodity. There’s really not a lot of risk involved here for the Suns.
If the Suns were able to pull this trade off, once Eric Bledsoe comes back the starting lineup would look something like this:
The only thing that lineup sorely misses is better 3-point shooting, but Tucker makes them at a 40.4 percent clip and Dragic is at 39.1 right now. Tucker would provide defensive intensity alongside Bledsoe, with Dragic as the main playmaker and Gasol as the post man. Plumlee could continue doing his thing, getting out in transition and cleaning up the glass.
The bench would be much improved, with a lot of offensive punch:
- Ish Smith, PG
- Leandro Barbosa, SG
- Gerald Green, SG
- Markieff Morris, F
- Marcus Morris, F
- Channing Frye, PF
- Alex Len, C
That second unit can run with just about any bench in basketball. The Suns could keep Bledsoe or Dragic on the floor with four of these guys and in a pinch, Gasol could slide over and play center. The options would be plentiful for Hornacek and his staff.
At the end of the day, the Suns could try to hold out for another player, but nobody is going to come as cheaply as Gasol. The pipe dream of Kevin Love becoming available would certainly cost three picks plus players so that would definitely hurt the chemistry this season.
Ryan McDonough needs to pull the trigger on this trade. At 29-18, the Suns are in great position and are only 3.5 games back of actually winning the Pacific Division and hosting a first-round series. A healthy and motivated Gasol would help them do just that.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Sports Illustrated/Fansided NBA site HoopsHabit.com and the Arizona Sports site HeatWaved.com. He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic. Follow me on Twitter @DunlapNBA.