Should The Lakers Trade Pau Gasol? Maybe, But There’s No Rush

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Even at 33-years-old, Pau Gasol is still an exceptional player when healthy. If you liken him to a player like Tim Duncan, who had a rejuvenated season at 37 and helped carry his team to the NBA Finals, Gasol may be perceived differently than he has in the past.

However, Lakers’ management has a duty to try and improve the team for the present and the future. If that means trading Pau Gasol in favor of a young talent (or talents) that will help elevate the Lakers for years to come, then management has a responsibility to make that decision.

Some may wonder why Gasol won’t take less money to stay with the Lakers, or even shun him for saying he won’t take less money. However, Pau is absolutely correct in his thinking. When Kobe said it, it was met with some criticism. When Pau said it, though, it should have been met with none.

Let me explain why.

If you’re Pau Gasol, why would you take less money when you can get more money from another team? More specifically, why would you take less money when you may very well be traded during the early stages of your new contract, anyway? Gasol may be willing to take less money in order to stay with the Lakers, but there’s no guarantee he won’t eventually be traded to another team. In Kobe’s case it’s highly unlikely that he’d get traded away from the Lakers, but in Pau’s case, the rumors will always be there.

Back to the trade stuff, though.

Ultimately, if the Lakers are seriously considering trading Pau Gasol, they better make sure they’re getting attractive talent in return. As of now, the Lakers’ biggest asset going forward is their financial flexibility next summer coupled with the number of elite players in 2014 and even 2015.

Therefore, management has to make sure that whatever talent they trade for is attractive to the “big name” free agents they’ve got their eyes on. Many of those free agents may very well be like Steve Nash and want to play alongside Pau Gasol ahead of another player(s).

Management will certainly have to weigh all of that carefully, but for now they shouldn’t be in a rush. The pressure to win this season isn’t what it was last season, and as of now Gasol is set to play a role he’s very comfortable with. Additionally, the season hasn’t even started yet so nobody knows what kind of year he’ll have.

If he gets back to All-Star level, it’ll be great all around. The Lakers would be either inclined to keep him, or if they’re set on trading him for future talent, his value would be even more inflated. If he doesn’t, his numbers will still likely be better than they were last season simply due to his return back to the center position. Personally, I’d like to see what happens when Kobe returns from injury and see just how good this team can be. They may end up being only a piece or two (very big 2014 free agent pieces count) away from being an elite team once again.

Patience Is A Virtue

Perhaps the biggest luxury the Lakers have this season as opposed to seasons in the past is time and the ability to practice patience. Because of the lowered expectations, when things aren’t going well there won’t as much pressure to fire a coach or trade a player as there has been in the past. This works in the Lakers’ favor because other teams will know they aren’t desperate to pull the trigger on a trade, and could be more than comfortable with letting their salary obligations mostly clear out at the end of the season.

In fact, taking on any new contract past this season may be something the Lakers aren’t inclined to do, and if they effectively convey that sentiment to other teams either directly or indirectly, those other teams will understand that and have to put together an enticing deal to sway the Lakers in favor of trading away their esteemed big man.

At the end of the day, trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol are an old hat. At this point, they’re just that — rumors. The likelihood of a trade being imminent is low, and I’d be very surprised if one were to come into fruition anytime soon. For now, Pau is probably a little bit distracted, but it’s nothing he’s not used to.

Management is truly in a position of being able to explore options at this point with regards to Pau Gasol. If they trade him, it’ll likely be for the type of talent they’ve been looking for in exchange for Gasol all along. If they don’t, they’ll have the option of either attempting to keep him long term at a reduced rate this summer, or letting him walk and opting to rebuild altogether.

Regardless of what Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak eventually decide, they’ll have the luxury of time on their side this time — at least until the trade deadline, anyway.

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