Gasol likely to leave Lakers after May

When Pau Gasol was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2007-2008 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were immediately catapulted into a process of becoming title contenders. In his next two full seasons, the Lakers won back-to-back NBA Championships with him as one of their main pieces alongside Kobe Bryant.

As a member of the Lakers, Pau Gasol has always kept his head down and done whatever happened to be best for the team, no matter the things that happened around him. Trade rumors have encircled him incessantly the past three seasons, and he was even traded once for Chris Paul before the deal was vetoed by retired NBA Commissioner David Stern.

This season is no different in terms of the presence of trade rumors for this talented veteran power forward. He has always put the team first, and he has been amazing recently, averaging almost 21 PPG and 12 RPG, but now I think it is time to say goodbye to our friendly seven-foot Spanish friend.

Gasol will be a free-agent this summer, and the Lakers have not indicated that they will be willing to include him in their long term plans, from all of the trade proposals that they have included him in. The Phoenix Suns have shown interest in Gasol, and if a deal is agreed upon it can only be a boon for each participating party.

If Gasol is traded to a team like the Phoenix Suns, it will only provide him with good opportunities. The Lakers are in the process of rebuilding and are current bottom dwellers in the western conference, with no indications that they will be reaching the postseason any time soon. On the other hand, a potential trade partner like the Phoenix Suns who are in playoff contention will provide meaning for a player like Gasol, who has largely been playing for pride, a contract when he hits free-agency, and for a franchise that is looking to trade him at any moment. A resurgent Gasol will be given the opportunity to play for something of worth with a playoff team and also show that he can still be a factor in the playoffs when he hits free agency.

Trading a player of Gasol’s caliber is always tough, especially when he has given so much to the franchise and asked for so little in return. Ultimately, this will be beneficial for the Lakers in the short and long term.

The Lakers have been flirting with being one of the second or third worst teams in the Western Conference, and having Gasol playing as good as he has only been making the games closer in competition and thus more disappointing when the Lakers ultimately lose.

This year’s draft is said to be the deepest in talent in recent memory, so if the Lakers were to trade Gasol, they could possibly end up with a better chance at landing a potential franchise player and future All-Star. Despite being one of the worst teams in the league this season, the Lakers surprisingly have the league’s fourth highest payroll and are currently over the luxury tax threshold.

Gasol’s salary contributes largely to that. He is being paid almost $20 million dollars a year and if some of his salary was to be cleared from the payroll, the Lakers could possible save millions from the luxury tax penalty. There is no use in paying millions in salary and luxury tax penalties when you are currently in the rebuilding process and have no chance whatsoever of making the playoffs, so it would be beneficial for the Lakers to part from one of their only bright spots of this season.

A team like the Phoenix Suns trading for Gasol makes complete sense. Gasol has shown to be resurgent in the month of January, and has not lost his drive to compete despite being on a losing team.

Gasol has been a member of two Championship winning teams, and his veteran leadership and knowledge in the playoffs will surely help the young Phoenix Suns. If Gasol performs well, he can always resign with the Suns or whichever team gets him via trade, and if he doesn’t perform well, his salary comes off the books at the end of the season, and both parties can go their separate ways as a result.

One of the main incentives that the Lakers have for trading Gasol is to be rid of his salary, and  they will be asking for little in return; maybe a future draft pick. The Suns happen to have four first round picks in the next upcoming lottery, and trading one of those picks will not be the end of the world for the Suns. On the other hand, another draft pick will be greatly beneficial to the Lakers, who commonly trade most of their future draft picks when acquiring top tier players from other teams.

Every season has its end, and Pau Gasol’s season ending with the Lakers sooner than expected will positively affect Gasol, the Lakers and whoever becomes the trade partner. Despite the perception that Gasol is soft and unaggressive, Lakers fans should remember Gasol’s tenure as a member of the Lakers fondly, no matter what happens.

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