Suns interested in Pau Gasol trade, per report

Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough hasn’t been shy about how he’ll be looking to improve the roster this season, but it was a matter of who was on the trade market. One of the most obvious players on said market seems to be of interest.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Suns are exploring a trade for Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol.

How does that sound?

More specifically, how does it sounds if the Suns don’t have to give up all that much?

The Lakers were discussing a move with the Cleveland Cavaliers in December that included a swap of Gasol and former Cavs center Andrew Bynum, but Los Angeles was too stingy to allow Gasol to walk for nothing. Of course, the Lakers want to rid themselves of Gasol’s $19.3 million salary, and trading for Emeka Okafor’s $14.5 million expiring contract would do some damage in getting them closer to the luxury tax threshold.

In fact, by lowering their cap number by the $4.8 million difference between Gasol and Okafor’s salaries, the Lakers would actually be saving about $7.8 million when considering luxury tax payments, and that’s not to mention the 80 percent of Okafor’s contract that will be paid by insurance.  Per ShamSports’ salary numbers, that would put the Lakers within about $2.5 million of the luxury tax line. Going below that threshold with an additional move or two would be a huge boon for the Lakers considering the looming repeater tax and the fact that Los Angeles has paid the tax the last two years. Such a deal would eliminate the majority of Phoenix’s remaining 2013-14 cap space.

However, in discussing their options with the Cavs, the Lakers also wanted assets in return.

As you probably know, Phoenix has those available. The Suns have up to four first-round draft picks in 2014. On top of Phoenix’s own, it has a top-12 protected pick from Washington, a top-13 protected pick from Minnesota and a top-14 protected pick from Indiana. That’s not to mention a 2015 pick from Los Angeles that came about from the Steve Nash trade.

Whether it’s picks or a young player or two, Phoenix could find itself with a All-Star caliber player who this season is playing well despite openly criticizing his role within Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

Gasol is averaging 17 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, and he’s still as dynamic of a big man in the game.

And no, this wouldn’t be viewed as the much-complained about upgrade at the power forward spot. Without getting into any players that could potentially go to Los Angeles in a trade along with Okafor’s contract — the majority of Phoenix’s young roster could be involved — the guess here is that the Suns would play Gasol at center.

The Suns want to keep their spacing with Channing Frye or the Morris twins.

Gasol would provide another dimension within an offense that to this point doesn’t have much of an inside-out option. While Phoenix has gone to Miles Plumlee at times to open up the perimeter, Markieff Morris might be their only legitimate low-post threat.

Bringing in Gasol would allow Phoenix to space the floor and create off double-teams.

When Gasol’s contract expires after this season, the Suns would be able to re-sign him while retaining his Bird Rights in such a deal, giving them the option to offer him a lucrative deal if he fits well with a few months in Jeff Hornacek’s system.

Of course, Stein’s report uses the word “exploration” because the Suns potentially see issues with signing a 33-year-old whose been hit by the injury bug in the last two years.

If the Suns don’t have to give up much other than a contract, a draft pick and even a player or two, they might have to ask themselves, ‘Why not?’

Should McDonough and company decide to pull the trigger, it could come down to Los Angeles getting enough in return. So if they’re not looking for a blockbuster deal that nets them an All-Star caliber player in return for Gasol, the Suns could be in a position to make a major move.

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