Things that could end Suns' trade interest in Pau Gasol

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.

  • Al

    Indeed. Phoenix has all the leverage here. They can just wait for the Lakers to come calling on Feb. 20 urging Phoenix to take Gasol. I don’t get why there aren’t reports of other teams that are interested in Gasol. Maybe because there are just a few and are not willing to give up a lot for him also. McD should call Lakers and ask for LA’s 2014 1st round pick and Suns will give them all 3 of their 2014 guarantee picks plus the Okafor and Gasol swap. After all 3 1st round picks are better than one for LA.
    Phoenix needs to get younger players and maybe even try to sign Gasol in the off season. They can use those 3 picks to move closer to the top 10 in the draft. LA HAS NO LEVERAGE!!!

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    I’d guess that there aren’t other teams interested in taking on Gasol because so few teams (or any) have a contract like Okafor’s they’d be willing to just hand over without asking for anything in return AND while taking on a risky player like Gasol, who is on an expiring deal. Add in the fact Phoenix MIGHT give up an asset, and the fit isn’t really easy to find elsewhere.

  • Foreveris2long

    Al, unless I am mistaken there is still a rule that prohibits NBA teams from trading away their 1st round picks in consecutive years. Since the Suns received the Lakers 1st round pick in 2013 and have their 1st round pick in 2015, I strongly suspect the league prohibits them from trading their 2014 first round to anyone.

    I do agree Lakers have no leverage as they are not going anywhere with Gasol and he will likely walk for nothing in a few months.

  • Foreveris2long

    Kev, I agree 100% with your assessment Gasol is a bad defender due to painfully slow feet, especially on the pick and roll. Good rebounder and really good offensively but bad defender.

  • EBJM

    Just pointing out something Forever brought up about the Lakers defense the past month, Kendall Marshall. While Pau might not have the quickest lateral movement but is it fair to use that stat when the guy Marshall guards blow by him at will?

    Regarding Mr. Schwartz’s idea; “So space would be used to take back more salary than trade rules allow with Blake” could use a bit more explanation.

    If he does two separate deals and does Blake first, the Suns cap just shrunk by $4 million, which means the 2nd deal of Okafor for Pau no longer works.

    The $5 million allowable difference only kicks in on $9.8 million to $19.6 million. So if combines Blake and Pau then the Suns would have to add salary which defeats the point of adding Blake to a deal.

    If the Lakers do Pau for Okafor then they could move someone like Kaman or Blake to another team under the cap by $3-$4 million but the Lakers would have to give up something to get a team to do that.

    Just how important is it for L.A. to get under the tax will dictate what pick McD will have to give up.

    I’m probably missing something in Mr. Schwartz’s thought process that I didn’t read on his tweet account.

  • Al

    @ Forever. I am actually not quite sure what the rules are exactly. I thought that the team is obligated to own a first round pick. It doesn’t necessarily have to be their own. If so then this trade would work:

    Phoenix would give LA Okafor, Bledsoe, Indy’s 2014 picks plus 2 2nd rounders. Phoenix gets Pau gasol and LA’s 2014 first round pick.

  • Auggie

    I don’t think the lakers are that desparate to save money that they would give up their lottery pick, even if it meant getting 3 first rounders. Part of the whole point of trading Gasol would be to lose more games to move up in the draft.

  • Solarion

    Please, no Pau. He would completely disrupt the chemistry. Now, if they can get the Lakers first rounder, then yes, but even though the management in Lakerland is as incompetent as ever, I don’t even see them making that move.

    The SUNS don’t need to do this, the Lakers must do something, they’ve lost mind-share to the Clippers. But only if they can package Pau and send him off somewhere for another draft pick.

  • BCrayZ

    Good idea Al!

    Lakers will most likely get a top 4 pick, especially with Pau gone.

    I’m not surprised that I agree with you on this. Only how did EBJM & I end up on the same page? Pau is a class act & will not be a problem in the locker room. Just so that we all feel that way ahead of time, I believe that respect should be paid to our older vet guys LB & Frye & of course our snubbed All Star Gogi. Have Jeff ask them how they truly feel about this move.
    If they are all truly excited about it, do the deal. If not, pass. Speaking of pass? Pau has not only scored 20+ in each of his last 10 games (what new injury?), but, he also may be the best passing big man in the game. Jeff, who encouraged Big Al to pass more, when they both were up in Utah, will like that. With all of the fine, efficient & consistent point production from our beloved Gogi, he is not the best distributor, as is evidenced by the sad fact that our Suns, when it comes to sharing the ball, rank dead last. As to Kevin’s point about Pau’s defense, how much worse could we be than we have been? As to Kevin’s other point that the Lakers are desperate, it is true. Suns, however are ALSO desperate to use this trade chip & the Lakers know this. Game of chicken? We ALSO MUST get a deal done, if not for Pau, then for someone else. Wait until the last minute? Here & now, we have a game vs. the Bulls, who won 11 games last month, more than any other team (even the Nets) in the East. They have been having their way with us lately, with or without Rose, even when they’re on the road. Another game without Eric. Suns have won 7 out of 8 since Barbosa has come back from his separated shoulder to play. Will he be able to play in tonight’s game? He may again be hurt. LB saw no action at all in our last game’s 2nd half. Here is to hoping that he is well enough to play. If he is, rather than the embarrassing way our Suns played in that last game in Q4, with our rookie getting time, we need to give more time to our “Blur.” Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EBJM

    Hey Forever, great question! You guys do see the irony in this question don’t you?

    This is the Ted Stepien-James Worthy rule.

    The key word in the rule is “future” 1st rd picks. Since 2013 draft is completed, the Lakers are free to trade their 2014 pick.

    In addition, Al is also correct. As long as the Lakers have any teams 1st rd pick then they could trade their own in consecutive years.

    So Phoenix could trade their picks in ’14 & ’15 & ’16.

  • shwaggert

    @BCrayZ what makes you think sun’s are desperate to use the okafor contact to make a trade? McD has said that they will be content if they don’t make a trade? With okafor. So what makes you so sure the suns ate desperate? Yeah they want a superstar but if not available I think the suns will stay seated at deadline.

  • Foreveris2long

    EBJM putting me to work. Al, EBJM is 100% correct regarding trading 1st round picks. One as you correctly stated Al, a team can trade consecutive future 1st round picks as long as they have an additional 1st round pick. Further as EBJM noted a team can still trade 1st round picks in consecutive seasons as long as the 2013 season has passed. Meaning once 2013 is gone they can trade the 2014 1st round pick even if they do not own another team’s 1st round pick. The rule limitation only applies to FUTURE 1st round picks.

    Sorry for being vague, over broad and ambiguous Al and EBJM. Glad you guys made me look this up.

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  • EBJM

    Bonus question Forever: If a team trades a pick with protections that span three years or more, like the Wolves pick that the Suns own, can the Wolves trade their future pick in ’15 BEFORE the Suns get what is owed to them?

  • Voqar

    I just don’t like this potential trade in any way.

    We don’t need a rental on a formerly great player pushing it for years, mileage, injuries, with a huge pricetag (if you DID keep gasol you sure as hell wouldn’t pay him 19m+/yr at this point…that’s pure insanity…and so how does that negotiation go.

    He’s not a run and gun player, doesn’t play defense with the same intensity as the suns (it’s amazing to say this), and we don’t really need a post up player that bad unless it’s a blossoming young star that plays defense when dragic and bledsoe carve up the lane so much.

  • Voqar

    Plus, the point that’s not made is, F&CK the Lakers. Why should anyone, especially us, help the Lakers with cap relief. Let them keep Gasol’s huge contract and eat some tax soup.

  • Al

    Apparently Pau will be out until after All Star break…So there goes any chance LA has of getting a first round pick. Why trade for an older player that may have a recurring injury the rest of the season? It seems like Pau is trying to get back at the Lakers for the way they’ve treated him the past 3 years or so…just like Ray Allen with Boston. Okafor for Pau straight up with a 2nd rounder just to be nice.

  • Scott

    I was for a Pau trade before A) Okafor’s contract got picked up by insurance, and B) Len started playing with no pain.

    Now I’m thinking that Pau is way too expensive for what he provides, especially with the time remaining in the season. He’d cost the Suns like an extra $12m or something, right? (Pau’s extra salary + loss of Okafor’s insurance … whatever that adds up to)

    I think the Suns should look elsewhere for their trade. However, if nothing has happened by the deadline, I would grudgingly approve of a trade of Okafor for Pau so long as it involved a swap for the Lakers’ 2014 first round pick. I’d go as far as bundling the Suns’ own first plus the Indiana first for the Lakers’ pick, but nothing beyond that. (Well, maybe the Suns’ 2nd round pick could be up for use, too.)

    The Suns got Goodwin at the end of the 2013 draft. If the Lakers draft well, they should be able to get good players with the Suns’ pick and Indiana’s pick.

    The Suns should expect to see a few players fall off the roster this summer: Ish, Kravtsov, Christmas, and Barbosa. This would leave room for four of the possible five draft picks they might be getting if they don’t trade picks. They can always stash a player or two overseas, but if all those picks are going to convey in 2014, they should find a way to trade up, and this Gasol trade might be a way.

    But … it’s a pretty expensive way. $12m plus 2 first round picks for an upper first round pick? Yikes.

  • Al

    That’s the problem with the Lakers. They want players that have already shown high potential or a really high draft pick. I don’t think they have any confidence on their college scouts to draft in the 20′s. Always looking to take good players from teams from smaller markets.

  • Foreveris2long

    Ok EBJM, great question. The rule about trading future consecutive 1st round picks (if a team does not have another 1st round pick) can really hurt teams who have protections on the 1st round pick they have traded. Due to a remote possibility the protection (top ? protected) will be used this season despite the team having an exceptional won loss record, if the protection is for two years, they cannot trade a future 1st round pick until I believe two years after the protection is gone. If it is possible the draft pick will be used this year, it counts against them. The protection can be an albatross around a team’s neck if they need to trade a 1st round pick to get that desired player. Pretty confusing stuff so I hope my explanation makes sense. This is worse than work.

  • EBJM

    I’m sorry Forever, I meant it as a pop quiz just for fun because I figured you had already read about it from the previous question.

    But yeah, the jist of it is that when a team puts protections on it, the next pick that they can trade is the one that is two years removed from the final year of protection until that pick is conveyed to the team that is in possession of it.

    So the Wolves can only trade their pick in ’18 until the one from ’14 is used.

  • Foreveris2long

    Nah no problem EBJM. I think Portland is in a similar position. Actually I am glad you asked because it is good to know. However I knew you already knew the answer.

  • Al

    Is there a limit? Can a team like give away a 1st round pick for 2030 or 2050?

  • EBJM

    I don’t recall reading amount any limit but I did have a conversation with someone who tried to argue that the Knicks and Nets still had “assets” because Denver and Boston were willing to accept two and three picks which means that the next pick the Nets could trade would be 2018 & 2020 respectively.

    It was in regards to trading for Rajon Rondo. As if the Celtics would trade Rondo for picks way out to 2020, 2022, & or 2024.

  • noitallman

    yes to Thaddeus, no to Gasol.

    Evan Turner is on the block as well. Maybe Thad & Turner, for a Morris, Okafor and a pick or two.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Gasol is an expiring contract, i dont know why LA would be desperate to move him, when they can just let it run out at the end of the season

    if anything, its the Suns that want to make a move, the Lakers know their season is done

    The Suns however, continue to think that a borderline playoff team in the west is worth pursuing instead of just trading their free agents to be for future assets and playing the young players Len, Plumlee, and Goodwin

    Sure the Suns are doing well in the regular season but so what, winning in the playoffs is what long time fans care about, and i just dont see this team getting around the top teams in the west in the playoffs.

  • EBJM

    The Lakers had the league’s highest tax bill last season at $29.3 million, which bought them a team that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. That was back in the good old days, when the tax rate was simply $1-for-$1.

    The 2013-14 season is the first year of the enhanced tax rates (starting at $1.50 for the first $5 million and ramping up to $3.75 and more for teams that are more than $20 million over the line). Next season, teams that have paid the tax in each of the past three seasons will face incremental rates (starting at $2.50 for the first $5 million and increasing to $4.75 or more for teams that are more than $20 million over.)

    With a $79 million payroll, the Lakers face a repeater tax rate next season. They currently have only $35 million in committed salary, including Steve Nash’s $9.7 million — which could be reduced by two thirds if they use the stretch provision on him. But if the Lakers want to go shopping in free agency and put some semblance of winning talent around Bryant — who will be paid $23.5 million in the first year of a two-year extension — paying repeater tax rates would seriously encumber them.

    If they would have made the deal for Bynum they would have gotten under the tax. If they do the deal for Okafor it gets their payroll down to within $3 million of the tax threshold. So then they would have to only dump Kamam or Blake and they would get under and avoid the tax and reset the repeater tax back to zero.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Gasol? and why? with him anyway … we will not win the championship and considerably lessen the space important to our youth ….

  • HunterSThompson

    Good stuff, Foerveris and EBJM! Thanks for the cap/draft pick education.

  • Emanuel

    Did anyone see the Chicago game last night? I was really skeptical about the Gasol trade, well,not anymore…..we do need a power forward in the worse way, Markieff is just too inconsistent, frye? am not even going there……I know there is some of you that are against the Gasol trade, but Gasol would be better than both frye and Markieff………when the game slows down we just cant score…..the Chicago game was a perfect example of what will happen in the playoffs…..bring on Gasol…….Go Suns…….

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Only get Gasol if you can ship him as part of a package to get Love.

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