Pau Gasol ate the canary (Getty Images)
Tossing out speculation about the possibility of Pau Gasol heading to the Chicago Bulls in a trade is Bulls.com's Sam Smith's stock-in-trade. The longtime Chicago Tribune scribe and soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer has long taken great delight in putting together potential deals based on good-faith scenarios ("Player X really likes Team Y, and wouldn't mind being dealt there"), even if those scenarios aren't exactly cap legal — like the times he hypothetically "trades" restricted free agents in draft day deals, or struggled with Base-Year Compensation players a few years ago.
Pointing out potential Pau deals is classic Sam, because the trade would seemingly upgrade Chicago while adding a big name, while not offering many specifics or actual quotes from sources that a deal is being discussed. He's not wrong, at no point during any of this does Sam act as if a deal is imminent or being batted around by either team, but it's alluring enough to bring back the readers every time.
Would such a deal help Chicago? Of course, because Gasol's all-around gifts would fit in with any team that dared use him the correct way. Would it help Los Angeles? Depends on the return, though we're secure in pointing out that the team badly needs to deal Gasol. But what of the potential parts? And what of the payroll implications for Chicago and Los Angeles, two of the most profitable teams in the NBA that have gone either to great lengths to avoid paying the luxury tax they well can afford (Chicago), or dumping staff and players for pure bottom line relief even in the wake of signing a massive TV contract (Los Angeles)?
In a world without worry over cash, trading Gasol for Chicago forward Carlos Boozer isn't actually as terrible a deal as you'd presume. Gasol is so, so much better than Boozer, and Boozer's defense ranks amongst the league's worst, but Boozer is also a pick and pop player. Dubious readers who know about my leanings will no doubt assume that I am acting the typical message board GM when I point to an "even" trade for the two, but don't. Gasol is an A-, and Boozer is at his best a B- once you consider his defense, and that's not even getting into Carlos' terrible contract (he's owed over $47 million between now and 2015).
Los Angeles' offensive failing, though, was its inability to spread the floor when Kobe Bryant deigned to run a pick and roll game. Gasol is not an accurate shooter from the perimeter, and struggles in that role. Boozer is, and because Bulls guard Derrick Rose has never been a comfortable pick and roll passer, that aspect of his game has declined in recent years, as he's often asked to finish plays in the low post that his declining athleticism mitigates from the start. That low post is clearly occupied by Andrew Bynum in Los Angeles, so Boozer needn't worry about being the Bailout (and, eventually, Whipping) Boy just as long as he can stroke those 17-footers he hit with regularity in Utah.
Cash does matter, though, and Los Angeles is not going to want to add Boozer's deal. Even if — and again, I say this as someone who has been frustrated watching Boozer in Chicago for the last two years — he would fit in quite well on the Lakers, and act as an improvement mainly because of the way the Lakers misused a better player in Gasol.
Dealing Gasol for Joakim Noah makes little sense for a Laker team desperately in the market for spacing, and though a transaction involving Luol Deng is intriguing (he would really space that floor, his production at big forward was surprisingly good over the last few years, and a hybrid forward tandem with Metta World Peace could do some interesting things), we doubt the Bulls would deal their lean-to workhorse for a much older player.
A third team, presumably, would have to get involved; but wouldn't the best option for any deal (the Houston Rockets, full of assets) also want in on picking Gasol up? They already had a deal in place for the big man last December, before the NBA put the kibosh on that, and they also boast two assets the Lakers badly covet — a power forward that can screen and shoot, and a pugnacious point guard that would stand up to Kobe and defend like mad.
Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry are straight out of central casting, and presumably quite available considering Lowry's recent rant against Rockets coach Kevin McHale, and the worry over paying Scola (already 32 years of age) just under $20 million over the next two years. Scola is the perfect fit alongside Kobe if his shots from the baseline are falling, and Lowry's all-around play (he's long been one of the best rebounding point guards in the NBA) is an absolute bargain at just under $12 million over the next two seasons. Two players at needed positions, making less combined money as Gasol would? Poifect.
Of course, I sound like the Lakers.com version of Sam Smith, here. Because why would Houston do this deal?
Gasol would fit in better settling up next to Samuel Dalembert in the Houston front line than he did with Los Angeles', because Dalembert is more of a baseline and top of the key shooter at the center position, both overall and in comparison to Andrew Bynum. But the Rockets don't know if backup point guard Goran Dragic (an unrestricted free agent this summer) will return, and is this the end result of acquiring all those assets? Two years of Pau Gasol, already past his prime, making the sorts of money he does?
In the end, we're right where we started. We've no idea how the Lakers are going to handle this, considering their newfound parsimony. We have no idea if the Chicago Bulls would consider paying the luxury tax. We have no idea how 28 other teams will handle the news of Pau Gasol being available, and what deals they'll offer.
But we clicked, though. And we read. And we wondered and mused and had a little fun with it. Classic Sam.
- Sports & Recreation
- Pau Gasol
- Chicago Bulls
- Los Angeles
- Carlos Boozer