The Lakers and Cavaliers have been discussing a trade that would send Pau Gasol to Cleveland in exchange for Andrew Bynum and his desirable contract. Talk about coming full circle. At one point the Lakers had traded Pau Gasol to the Hornets/now Pelicans for Chris Paul. The trade was vetoed and the rest is history. Andrew Bynum was dealt for Dwight Howard who now resides in Houston, Texas. Now Pau Gasol will potentially be traded for Andrew Bynum. It’s the circle of NBA life.
A trade of Pau Gasol would signify a shift in Lakers management’s mind. No longer would the idea of rolling the dice with one last Kobe-Pau led team be the plan. By trading Pau the Lakers would commit to tanking, whether they admit it or not. No longer would the Lakers have a single player who is worthy of a double team. The Lakers roster would resemble more of a D-League roster than one of an NBA team. But it would be a good thing.
Pau Gasol played brilliantly in the Lakers win against the Jazz; keep in mind, that was against one of the worst teams in the NBA. But for the majority of the season, Pau Gasol has struggled. Gasol is currently shooting a career low 44.9% from the field. For a big man who likes to play from the post, that figure is absolutely unacceptable. His defense has been even worse, routinely seeming disinterested in playing anything that resembles interior defense. I don’t think Pau is out of juice, I just don’t think he has any interest in trying on this lottery-bound Lakers team. Despite the Cavaliers poor record of 11-22, they currently sit only 2.5 games out of the 8th seed in the East. A trade for Pau Gasol would certainly give the Cavaliers the firepower to propel themselves into the playoff picture.
And for the Lakers? It isn’t the sappy reunion story many would like it to be. The trade for Andrew Bynum is not an admission of a mistake in the Dwight Howard trade. It is rather a financial decision. Bynum has a contract that can see him cut before January 7th and have no other money due to him this year. The Lakers are currently paying Pau $19 million. This would be a swap that saved the Lakers in the neighborhood of $20 million dollars and keeps them out of the luxury tax, an important note for a team that would like to contend for titles ASAP. So Andrew would never put on a Lakers jersey again even if the trade does occur. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Cavaliers would like the trade to happen by Sunday January 5th.
The main hold up is the difference in contracts. A Pau for Bynum swap can’t occur straight up due to the salary cap. Cleveland absolutely has to trade another contract, worth $2 – 7 million to make it work. The Lakers current stance is to hold onto Gasol if they don’t receive some sort of asset. This move will not be made purely for financial relief. So the possible options to come to LA are: Dion Waiters, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, and Anthony Bennett. Almost any other move would require multiple players coming over from Cleveland, none of whom are worth being considered as an asset. The Lakers won’t be willing to take back Earl Clark. Been there. Done That. Dion Waiters has been rumored to have issues with certain members of the Cavs, but nothing was substantiated. Anthony Bennett was last year’s #1 overall pick, but has struggled mightily this season. I find it hard to believe the Cavs would give up on him that easily. That leaves Jarrett Jack. Jack hasn’t provided the results the Cavs have hoped for. But he is under contract for three more seasons. If the Lakers take Jack and his longer contract, they would likely ask for a pick in return.
Overall, this is probably the smartest move the Lakers could make. This team did have a chance to make the playoffs, but those hopes went out the window when Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Kobe, Jordan Farmar, and Xavier Henry all got injured. Pau isn’t able to be a number one option and help the Lakers stay afloat. This is another lost season for Kobe Bryant. It is time to lick your wounds and enter the draft lottery. If the Lakers can get a young asset or a first round pick, they could reload for a title run in Kobe’s final seasons.