A few hours before the Super Bowl, the rumor went out that the Phoenix Suns were interested in trading for Pau Gasol. Jacob Rude scooped up that story right away, found here.
What is a crazy idea is, purely based on speculation, Dante Exum may be the player that the Lakers covet in the draft, and don’t want to risk losing him. Dante Exum is projected to be a top-5 prospect, currently listed behind Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle. At 6’6″ out of Austrailia, he has all of the physical tools and skill level to handle the NBA at the point guard position.
How is Pau Gasol linked to all of this? If Pau were to be traded, it is likely that Emeka Okafor would come back in return. The Suns have several 1st-round picks in the upcoming draft, and Gasol’s play greatly outweighs Emeka Okafor. Emeka Okafor is a solid player, nearly a double-double average in just 26 minutes of play during the 2012-2013 season. However, injury concerns, a neck injury and a herniated disk, have limited his upside as an NBA player, and the Lakers could use a frontcourt player that is more focused on defense than offense. Okafor is that guy. He was the #2 pick behind Dwight Howard, despite an NCAA championship and all of the physical tools and skill levels to become an NBA level All-Star. There is no timetable for him to return and his injuries are quite serious.
Still, Pau Gasol’s play of late, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds through injury, increased his trade value and drew interest from other teams. He’s putting up great numbers despite fighting injuries of his own, but there is utmost faith in the Phoenix Suns training room to revive Gasol to his peak glory.
The Phoenix Suns have the #17, #22, and #30 picks in the first round. If the Lakers were to keep their #6 pick and combine it with #17, #22, or #30, it wouldn’t be a surprise to create a draft day trade in order to retain the rights to Dante Exum. Despite the draft being top-heavy with All-Star level talent, there is depth that leads into the early 2nd round in terms of starting-caliber talent. While mock drafts aren’t polished yet, great NCAA players such as Jahii Carson, Semaj Christon, and Glenn Robinson III are actually found into the early 2nd round. Acquiring players like Noah Vonleh at #6 and #Semaj Christon at #30 would go far for an NBA team. Both players have the athleticism, physical tools, and requisite skill level to become starters, or even All-Stars at the NBA level; depending on how well each develop their own potential. That may be more of a lucrative offer for the Sacramento Kings, who already have Rudy Gay and Demarcus Cousins as a power punch duo offensively, but could use some defensive help in the starting line up or off the bench.
The last time a trade of this caliber occured for the Lakers was back in 1996. This time, the terms are different, but the bottom line is the same. The Lakers are still looking for their next franchise player, whether it’s Dante Exum or any one else, to carry the team back into championship glory. A Pau Gasol trade needs to happen.