morning news broke that the Lakers were reportedly in talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a potential Pau Gasol for Andrew Bynum trade. With the news fresh on everyone’s mind, Lakers Nation reached out to Conrad Kaczmarek of SB Nation’s Fear The Sword to answer some questions about Bynum, the Cavs, and potential trade fillers.
Lakers Nation: To start, can you give me a bit of background information on why Bynum was suspended and why the Cavs are looking to move him?
Conrad Kaczmarek: Well, the Cavs’ press release said Bynum was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.” What that means is anybody’s guess.
He hasn’t been good this year and it seems like he’s not particularly happy playing basketball anymore. The Cavs tried really hard to feature him on this team for the first part of the season, but once it was clear that it wasn’t working, they decided to limit his role and get Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller some more time. The logical conclusion is that Bynum didn’t appreciate that and started being a negative influence in the locker room. The Cavs are trying (and mostly failing) to create a positive culture in Cleveland and an sulking Bynum doesn’t help that.
If he’s still on the roster after January 7, the Cavs owe Bynum another $6 million. So they are looking to trade him or at least make some sort of decision on him before that date.
LN: Do the Cavs favor trading him for an asset like Gasol over just waving him before the Jan. 7 deadline?
CK: Absolutely. He has a valuable contract because his deal can be used in a trade to match a salary of about $12 million, but the team that receives him can just cut him before January 7 and save $6 million. That’s why he’d be so appealing to the Lakers. They can save a TON of money in salary and luxury taxes by dealing Pau.
And don’t sleep on the possibility of the Cavs keeping Bynum past January 7 if they can’t trade him before then. They’ll just keep him in street clothes and pay him $6 million. He’ll still be an expiring contract, so he might have trade value all the way up until the deadline.
LN: I know Pau’s expiring contract is attractive to some teams, but do you think the Cavs have any real interest in bringing in Pau outside of what he can mean for them financially. Does he make sense on the court for them?
CK: Oh yeah, definitely. The Cavs don’t value Pau because he’s an expiring contract. They have plenty of money coming off the books this summer, so that isn’t the motivation. The appeal is that Pau would help the Cavs win this year. I think the reports about Dan Gilbert “demanding” the playoffs this year are a bit overblown, but there’s definitely a sense of urgency in this organization to take a step forward. Pau is a proven winner, a guy that Mike Brown knows how to use on offense, and somebody that would be a good influence on some of Cleveland’s young payers.
LN: With that, the contracts obviously don’t match up and Cleveland is going to have to send a player and/or some draft picks to make it work under the league rules. Is there any guy in particular you can see the Cavs letting go? Are there any picks that they wouldn’t mind seeing head to Los Angeles?
CK: The Cavs have a good deal of picks and there are definitely a few that are only vaguely valuable to the Cavs (Sacramento’s protected pick, a slew of early 2nd rounders, Miami’s 2015 protected first rounder). They also have a couple of contracts that could make the deal work. Alonzo Gee makes a little over $3 million and is an expiring contract — if Cleveland throws him in, the deal works financially. I think it would probably be something like that. Gee is the best candidate.
LN: Chicago has also been rumored to be interested in trading for Bynum. Would the Cavs be more interested in swapping for Gasol or for Deng?
CK: That’s a good question. Probably Deng, but it doesn’t sound like the Bulls are as motivated to move Deng and it’d probably take more assets to get him.
Mind if i ask you a few questions about Pau?
LN: Not at all.
CK: Where do you think Pau is physically? Obviously, he’s a step slower now, but do you think he still has enough physically to contribute?
LN: He’s slowly declined in this department since 2010 for sure, but when fully healthy he can definitely be a great contributor. He’s shown flashes this season with a few 20-10 games and showed great synergy with Kobe in the latter part of his six games back. He’s been moved off his spots rather easily this year and, as a result, has taken many more mid range jumpers than he should. Regardless of his physicality, he’s still one of the best passing big men in the league from either the block or elbow. He could be a great third option for Kyrie and Dion.
CK: Where do you think he is mentally? Do you think he’d be open to moving to Cleveland for the remainder of the season and acting more as a mentor for these young players than competing for titles like he’s been used to in LA?
LN: As far as his mentality, I know he loves his teammates and would be a bit bummed to leave Los Angeles, but I think his professionalism wouldn’t allow his feelings to get in the way of his job. I think he’d be good for the abundance of youth Cleveland has, but Cleveland likely wouldn’t be desirable if it were up to him.
CK: Do you have any idea what his relationship with Mike Brown is like? Would he want to play for him again and be the veteran presence that the Cavs lack?
LN: Gasol hasn’t been happy at all since D’Antoni took over the team last season. There were a couple of games last December where Gasol sat out an entire 4th quarter, or during crunch time, of a winnable game that the Lakers lost. Gasol complained last year, and this year he’s complained about the way D’Antoni has run the offense. He’s hasn’t like the ways he’s gotten the ball or the spots on the floor he’s asked to operate.
Mike Brown, on the other hand, was a lot better with Pau. He encouraged Pau to play on the block, but was open to him stretching the floor, which is the opposite of what D’Antoni has been preaching. I remember Mike Brown saying something along the lines of using Pau like the Cavs used Big Z during some parts of the game to stretch the defense, and Pau was completely fine with that as his primary role was in the paint. I think the change of scenery would be good for Pau because he’s clearly not happy with his situation right now.
CK: I guess there’s one other thing about the Lakers, I might as well ask
Many Cavs fans are already sick of Jarrett Jack, his midrange jumpers, and his three year contract. Do you think the Lakers would have any interest in trading for Jack considering their gaping hole at the point guard spot?
LN: When the news initially broke, a lot of our readers were asking about the potential of bringing in Jack as a part of the deal, but I find that unlikely. This team has been unwilling to bring in contracts lasting that extend through the next two summers, and Jack’s is just that. If these trade rumors are true, then it would suggest that the Lakers are packing things in for the rest of the season in hopes of a decent draft pick in the lottery. With that said, it would seem unlikely that the Lakers would want to improve at any position this season. Also, Steve Blake should be back in a few weeks. Blake and Farmar shared the PG duties very well until the team started dropping like flies, if both of them are healthy, Jack would just clog things up and make the season more frustrating than it has to be. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that the Lakers would be willing to bring him in.
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