This is one of those things that people love to bring up when throwing trade ideas at me. They think because a guy played high school ball or grew up in a particular city, or because a guy and one of the team’s assistant coaches happened to graduate from the same college 20 years apart, that a trade idea makes more sense. One of my Twitter followers loves to tell me that the Lakers should trade for Brandon Jennings because he is from Compton. I don’t hate Brandon Jennings but what does that have to do with anything?
New Luxury Tax Penalties Are No Joke
Next season is the first in which greater luxury tax penalties go into effect. The season after that, the 2014-15 season, the penalties get even more serious. Not every team has the resources like the Lakers or Knicks have when it comes to paying penalties. Even the Knicks were hesitant to match the offer sheet the Rockets gave to Jeremy Lin because of how much it would cost in it’s final season. The Lakers refrained from signing Leandro Barbosa before the season because they didn’t want to have to pay a player they would have to release to create a roster spot.
Acquiring a player making $19.3 million is something that could handcuff a team and prevent them from making any other future moves. Only teams with enough salary coming off their books, either in the trade to acquire the player or in contracts that expire after this current season, would consider making a play for someone like Pau Gasol. This would probably eliminate most small market teams and any team that wants to have cap space this coming summer. The Utah Jazz are currently $3 million below the luxury tax threshold. You can be sure that they wouldn’t make any deal that would put them in danger of going over.
The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, have about $18 million in just the expiring contracts of Beno Udrih, Samuel Dalembert, and Mike Dunleavey. They also have potential free agent Brandon Jennings. Monta Ellis also has an early termination option on the final year of his contract. Given next summer’s weak free agent class, the Bucks might be willing to trade Ellis for Gasol if the Lakers were willing to take back one of the Bucks more undesirable contracts, like Ersan Ilyasova’s newly-signed 5-year, $45 million deal or the remaining two years and $13.4 million left on Drew Gooden’s contract.
No One Is In A Rush To Help The Lakers
I know fans of other teams might disagree with this but it’s the truth. During the Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-02, the team only pulled off one significant trade and that was the four-team trade that sent Glen Rice to the Knicks and brought back Horace Grant. The other two trades just swapped out meaningless draft picks and bench guys like Tracy Murray and Lindsey Hunter. During the back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, the only meaningful trade they made was the cost-cutting one that sent Sasha Vujacic to the Nets for Joe Smith’s expiring contract.
When the Lakers have been able to pull off significant trades, it’s because they have the assets that other teams were looking for. The Lakers pulled of the Pau Gasol trade because they had the right combination of draft picks, Kwame Brown’s large expiring contract, and the drft rights to Paus’ brother, Marc. When they acquired Steve Nash they had a trade exception that allowed the Suns to sign-and-trade him without having to take back salary. When they made the Dwight Howard trade they also happened to have the league’s second-best center.
That hasn’t stopped Lakers fans from thinking that just because they want Ryan Anderson the Hornets must be in a rush to trade him to the Lakers for a dozen pairs of sneakers and two Laker Girls.
The difference between the big trades of the past and now is the lack of assets the Lakers have. Teams are enjoying watching them struggle and you can’t really blame them. This teams has had more head coaches this season than most teams have had playoff series wins in the last 10 years. So if the guy you were hoping the Lakers would get ends up going to another team for less than what the Lakers reportedly offered, it’s probably because the last thing any GM wants to be known for is being the guy who handed the Lakers another championship.
I’m not saying that I don’t want any of you to send me your trade ideas or ask how I feel about a rumor. I’m just saying there are a few things to consider before you hit send and waste either your time or mine.