Whenever someone sends me a Trade Machine link with a three or four-team trade, I immediately take it as serious as acquiring cooties. Sure they’re fun to ponder but they rarely ever happen.
I didn’t say they never happen because occasionally they do. I’m just saying they don’t happen often because they’re extremely difficult to pull off. It’s usually because a team that has to relinquish four or five players in order to get salaries to match up would then have to find ways to fill out the remainder of their roster in the middle of a season. Likewise, the team that inherits the four or five players would then have to release players to get under the 15-man maximum. If you have to release a guy, you still have to pay him if his contract is guaranteed. For a team over the luxury tax, such as the Lakers, paying so much for guys to either not play for them or to play for someone else is something that teams over the luxury tax threshold will always try to avoid.
For example, two teams often mentioned in Gasol trade rumors are the Rockets and Wolves. Pau is making $19 million this season. The Rockets three highest paid players are Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik (both making about $8.4 million) and James Harden ($5.8 million in the last year of his rookie contract. His new deal begins next season). Presumably, the Lakers aren’t interested in trading for Asik or Lin and Harden is untouchable.
The next six highest-paid Rockets make less than $15 million combined. Without taking back Lin, Asik, or Harden, the Lakers would have to take back at least five Rockets in order for a Gasol trade to work. That also means it would be difficult for the Lakers to send Houston another player along with Pau. The Lakers would end up with a 19-man roster after the trade and would have to pay the four guys they’d be forced to waive.
Similar story with Minnesota. Kevin Love is not available. At least not yet. I’m guessing the Lakers aren’t interested in Brandon Roy or Andrei Kirilenko. That means the next easiest trade for the Lakers would have them taking back upcoming free agent Nikola Pekovic, draft flop Derrick Williams, and two more years of JJ Barea. That isn’t much of a package without a draft pick or two.
It’s not just with trades involving Gasol. Reports came out this week that the Lakers were interested in trading for José Calderon, the Raptors’ highest-paid player. Since we know the Lakers aren’t trading Steve Nash and the Raptors don’t want Metta World Peace, the only possible trades would either be the injured Steve Blake and Jordan Hill or either Blake or Hill along with Chris Duhon and either Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, or Devin Ebanks. I can’t see the Lakers moving Hill without getting the Raptors to also take back Blake and Duhon. I’m not sold that the Raptors would do that anyway. Why would they?
I know that the Raptors will do everything they can to try and move Calderon before the deadline. I’ve maintained since before the season started that the Lakers only realistic chance at acquiring him is if the Raptors can’t trade him and decide to buy him out. The problem is that Calderon has been fantastic in the games in which he’s started in place of the injured Kyle Lowry. In only 12 games as a starter, Calderon has already registered games of 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 17, and 18 assists.
With every game that Lowry misses, the chances of the Raptors finding a taker for Calderon via trade grow more and more likely and the chances of the Raptors moving him without getting back a first-round pick become less and less likely.
And that’s because…
Draft Picks Matter
The earliest first-round pick the Lakers can include in a trade is in 2019. Depending on how they finish, their first round pick in this year’s draft belongs to either Cleveland or to Phoenix. They’ve already traded away their 2015 and 2017 picks. Since the NBA forbids teams from trading away first-round picks in consecutive drafts, the Lakers can’t include their 2014 or 2016 pick in any trades and they won’t be able to trade their 2018 pick until after the 2017 Draft is over.
In other words, the Lakers would probably want to get back a future first-round pick (or two) from a team willing to trade for Pau. There are some teams who don’t have first round picks in this year’s draft and therefore can’t move their 2014 pick until the 2013 draft is over. Is there another Laker on the team besides Pau that not only would the Lakers consider trading, but could also bring them back a first-round pick in a trade? Pau quite possibly represents the Lakers only realistic asset for acquiring a first round pick.
Houston owes Atlanta a lottery-protected first-round pick in next year’s draft. Even though Houston will most likely keep their pick, they’re not allowed to trade it until it’s fate has been determined. However, Atlanta is allowed to trade the pick along with it’s conditions.
For the purposes of this discussion, every Lakers fan I know wants nothing to do with Carlos Boozer. But if the Lakers could trade Pau for Boozer, a future Bulls first-round pick and/or the conditional first-round pick the Bobcats owe the Bulls from the Tyrus Thomas trade, would that make you more willing to trade the year-and-change left on Gasol’s deal for the two-and-change left on Boozer’s?
Just something to think about.
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