The Suns’ exploratory interest in Pau Gasol has been confirmed to be an ongoing discussion outside the depths of U.S. Airways Center. Both ESPN and The Arizona Repulic’s Paul Coro report the Suns and Los Angeles Lakers have had talks about such a trade.
Picturing Gasol in a Suns uniform is on the next tier of weird after watching Steve Nash don the Los Angeles Lakers uniform, so naturally, such a trade brings that ick-in-your-mouth feeling if you’re a Suns fan. But it’s hard to argue Gasol would not bring a dimension of the offense that’s been forced upon Miles Plumlee, and with a little more more success, Markieff Morris.
To make those opposed to a deal feel better, remember there’s a lot going on here. We’ve gone over the contract details, and Michael Schwartz threw out a clever idea on his Twitter account that would help Los Angeles actually get under the luxury tax threshold.
From a non-salary perspective, here is what else must be overcome for the deal to go through.
- The Suns have other options: Coro was first to remind us that Phoenix, in any trade talk leading into this discussion, was widely believed to only be looking at young players that might turn into stars. Thaddeus Young has been a name that’s popped up on the internet quite often, and everyone would love Kevin Love. Anyway, Gasol is 33 years old. Now, you look at this is two ways. First, do the Suns give up their shot at acquiring a young player this season to become a bigger threat in the West? And what is that threat if Gasol is added to the equation? Secondly, the Suns must decide if this is worth a rental or if they think signing Gasol longterm — they hold his Bird Rights — will help them beyond this season. That leads to …
- Injury issues: The obvious. ESPN reported Tuesday that the Suns are put off by Gasol’s most recent injury, a groin issue that required Platelet Rich Plasma treatment. This is another reason this deal will loom for the next few weeks, until the Feb. 20 trade deadline. If the Suns look at signing Gasol longterm, the injury questions remain.
- Gasol’s lack of defense: This is the biggest deal if Gasol is part of the Suns this year. Although he’s a fine backline shot-blocker who is still averaging 1.5 blocks per game, he’s a risk in the pick-and-rolls especially because of his slow feet — a groin injury won’t help. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN pushed out some fine statistics to show just how bad Gasol is on defense (he anchored a team giving up 111 points per 100 possession this past month). That said, Gasol put up a 23.1 PER for this past month and is an obvious offensive upgrade over Plumlee, who has been awful as a post scorer of late.
- Chemistry: It’s the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” sort of situations. The Suns are still winning with their flaws, and it’s arguable they don’t need a post presence considering Goran Dragic and the guards get into the lane anyhow. the points in the paint scoring is there. I doubt Gasol would be a bad teammate despite his complaints over in Los Angeles. A fresh start will have him in a good mood, and even pushing Plumlee out of the rotation and changing the rotations won’t sour anyone’s attitude based on what we know about this Suns locker room. Still, that rotation disruption could be an issue. It’d be up to Jeff Hornacek to reshape it.
- Lakers want too much: Another reason why this will drag until the final buzzer. Los Angeles clearly wants salary cap relief, but it seems likely they’re not going to budge unless they can at least take back a first-round pick, at minimum. Even that could be too much for the Suns if they think the risk is too much already.
For a myriad of reasons, the Suns will wait this out. They’ll hold out until the Feb. 20 trade deadline to see if Gasol’s health improves. And they’ll continue fielding trade talks from other teams, dangling Emeka Okafor’s contract as bait. The good news for general manager Ryan McDonough is that he has the leverage here. The Lakers are the team desperate to get out of tax territory, and the Suns have the chips to make it happen if they see a fit with Gasol.
If not, it was at least a fun discussion.