Let me take you on a trip back in time. Its any date before December 8, 2011, the date the NBA and NBA Player’s Association agreed to the new, authoritarian CBA. Back in this time, an almost $20 million expiring contract, the one of Pau Gasol, would have been treated as absolute gold. An opportunity to wipe $20 million clean from your books? Owner’s and GM’s salivated at the prospect of such a move. If the cost was only a young player and a 1st round pick, so be it. Today, the Lakers weren’t even able to unload the much smaller, expiring contracts of Chris Kaman or Jordan Hill. Not even a second round pick could be had.
In 2010, the trade deadline was absolutely buzzing. There was a three team trade between the Knicks, Kings, and Rockets that included Tracy McGrady, Larry Hughes, Carl Landry, Kevin Martin and Jordan Hill. The Bulls traded Tyrus Thomas to the Bobcats and got two players and a future 1st round pick. The Jazz got a future 1st round pick for Ronnie Brewer. Some other names that got traded include Steve Blake (again), Jodie Meeks, John Salmons, Antawn Jamison, Drew Gooden, Marcus Camby, Caron Butler and Josh Howard. All those players gone at one deadline. This year the biggest trade was a shell-of-his-former-self Danny Granger for the “good stats, bad team” Evan Turner.
For the Lakers, the problem of the new CBA was magnified. With harsher penalties and stricter guidelines on payroll, the Lakers were stuck in a tough place. The Lakers had two sizeable-contract players in Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Both players were inked to their deals prior to December 8, 2011. These deals were given out with no thought to the looming CBA negotiations that led to a brief lockout. Never would the Lakers’ front office have thought they wouldn’t be able to attain a single 1st round pick for an expiring contract of Gasol.
Fans, commentators, and bloggers alike have been clamoring for the Lakers to trade Gasol and get something back, unlike what happened with Dwight. All points indicate to Gasol walking as a free agent this summer. If the Lakers let two of the best big men leave their team in back-to-back offseasons with nothing to show, the perception of the front office will take an even larger hit than it already has. But all is not lost and Gasol hasn’t left the Lakers high and dry just yet. The Lakers still own his Bird Rights and can help facilitate any sign-and-trade that might open up Gasol’s options this summer.
This summer, once the Lakers books look a lot more neat, will be the team’s first real shot at building something under this new CBA. The Lakers hadn’t had access to mid-level players, a staple of what is needed to build championship teams. The Lakers were limited in sign-and-trade deals they could make, which now opens back up to them. The Lakers will finally have a first round pick, after trading so many away (the Lakers have had only two 1st round picks since 2007. Javaris Crittenton in 2007 who has had murder and drug chargers brought up against him and Toney Douglas in 2009 who was traded to the Knicks).
For now, the new CBA can be blamed for the Lakers not making a move. Teams were hoping the Lakers would simply give up players for financial relief. The Lakers proved they would rather pay a little more money than fall prey to savvy GM’s. At least in that aspect, the Lakers’ trade deadline was a success.