Pau Gasol Remains a Laker, For Now

Darius Soriano —  January 6, 2014

Pau Gasol will not be going to the Cavs via trade. Per Brian Windhost of ESPN:

The first round pick from the Kings that the Cavs are sending to Chicago is more than mildly protected, needing to be outside the top 12 in the upcoming draft and outside the top 10 in any of the drafts from 2015 through 2017 (which, at this point, may not occur based off their franchise trajectory as of now). The right to swap 1st round picks this year is also protected and can only occur should the Cavs make the playoffs (they are currently on the outside looking in, sitting in the 12th spot).

The Lakers, then, hold onto Pau. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing right now.

As an aside, there is a common misconception about what a Pau Gasol trade would have meant for the Lakers, at least in relation to the deal that was supposedly on the table with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While more recent reports had the Lakers continuing to stand their ground in seeking at least one other asset (a draft pick, a young player, or an established player who could be a part of next year’s team or traded again for more assets), the key benefit ¬†of the deal from their perspective was a financial one.

The injury-ravaged Lakers have been considering whether to execute a Gasol-for-Bynum trade because it would get them out of the luxury tax for the first time in seven years. More important than the $20 million in instant savings would be easing the pressure of going into the repeater tax in either 2015 or ’16, sources said. If a team is in the luxury tax in four out of any five years, it triggers the repeater tax.

This, of course, is very true. The Lakers stood to save a bunch of money this season AND dip below the luxury tax line. However, what’s not spelled out in that excerpt — in fact, it wasn’t really spelled out in many places — is that the Lakers will be below the luxury tax line next season simply by letting Pau Gasol’s contract expire and then renouncing his rights in free agency (which is almost a given).

What’s also not spelled out is that the Lakers, should the sentence I just typed hold true, will also find themselves below the tax line the following season simply due to CBA mechanics that make it extremely difficult to get above the luxury tax line without committing big money to your own free agents via their Bird Rights. As it stands today, the only Lakers who will be coming off the books in the summer of 2015 are Robert Sacre and Steve Nash (and potentially Nick Young and Kendall Marshall should stay with the team beyond this season). Simple math, even when accounting for free agent signings this summer and whatever draft pick is added, make it extremely difficult to get above the tax line when you consider who the Lakers would need to commit big money to.

Said another way, the Lakers are very unlikely to be a tax paying team in either of the next two seasons and, thus, are very unlikely to pay the repeater tax. If they simply let free agency play out in a normal way, they’ll avoid those heavy tax payments that were the supposed impetus to trading Gasol to the Cavs and will maintain the benefit of the flexibility that trade would have offered them anyway.

Even in saying all that, let’s not act as though the Lakers’ only chance to trade Gasol evaporated with the Cavs pulling the trigger on a deal for Deng. Gasol has played well of late — in his last 10 games he’s averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds on 51% shooting — and if his production stays relatively stable until the trade deadline the potential for trade partners to materialize could increase. We’re looking at another month or so of time before that date comes.

Whether the Lakers find a deal they like enough to follow through with a trade is another story, but it’s not impossible to imagine them finally finding some sort of package that fits into their short and long term goals for building a team. In other words, Pau may still be a Laker today but there’s still plenty of time on the calendar for that to change.

And, so, more things change, the more they stay the same. Over the next month or so, I think we’ll find this to be especially true when it comes to Pau Gasol being in the middle of trade rumors.

Darius Soriano

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19 responses to Pau Gasol Remains a Laker, For Now

  1. I am all for trading my favourite big and tank for a top 10 pick, but the deal the Bulls got was really not good enough. It still might make sense for them, but I think the Lakers can do better.

  2. Bynum? Really? Who wants that head case again. He wasn’t worth much the last time.

  3. Wonder what will happen to Andrew?

    Can you imagine him in South Beach?

    Maybe he could ride to games with Yasiel Puig!

  4. what made anyone think anything was really happening? the Lakers almost never are involved in public negotiations for a trade.

  5. @The Dane: I completely agree with you. Cavs may have traded their draft picks for nothing if Deng walks. CHI saved money and may have a direction now, even in rebuilding.

    Lakers can easily do better than both with assets they have now.

  6. Pau would have been hell-bent on proving everyone wrong if the Lakers dealt him for Bynum; how far that would have went, we have no way of knowing, but motivated athletes can make a difference, and seeing at at our expense wasn’t something I wanted to do, especially since his salary comes off the books at the end of this season anyway.

    I have a feeling that with Kobe and his ASG remarks, we’re officially in tank-mode. Everyone on our roster will love D’Antoni since his system will boost everyone’s stats for the next deal and our team will still go out and play, but there will be little to no emphasis on defense…

  7. Darius’s tweets and Al’s comment make a great point: the party line that the Lakers “have no assets” is pretty silly. In fact, given the constraints he’s working with, Mitch has done a great job of adding low-cost assets — all the guys on cheap one-year contracts — which can be fodder for a deadline deal.

    In no particular order, Meeks, Kaman, Young and Hill would have lots of possible value to a contender, and thanks to the abysmal state of the EC, there are a lot of unlikely ones. (I’d rather keep the latter two guys, although Hill’s spot in MDA’s doghouse, while hard to figure, probably means he’s a good candidate to go.) I don’t include Henry, Johnson and Marshall, since my sense is the Lakers would like to keep them around if possible, and they haven’t established themselves yet to the extent that the other guys have. Blake is hurt but he is an expiring and was playing well before the injury — there’s potential value there too, even as deal filler.

    I’d go as far as to say that the Lakers’ dumpster-diving strategy this year really hasn’t gotten enough credit, and undoubtedly will be copied at some point in the future. Find high draft picks who haven’t lived up to their potential, put them in a player-friendly, stat-boosting system, and jockey for a good lottery pick while uncovering potential assets for trade or for the future. It’s far removed from the Laker way of doing business, but given the circumstances, it’s pretty smart — and the trade deadline might show that it’s smarter than we thought.

  8. No problem with the trade:

    – Bulls realize they need to go in a new direction, must become less dependent on D. Rose.
    – Cavs continue to show they don’t have a clue. S/h kept picks, all star free agents don’t sign w/ Cleveland (who was the the last to do so?).
    – Gasol will finish up his Laker career in April.
    – Deng will be a free agent in July, no way he resigns w/ the Cavs.
    – Bynum is waived and signs with a serious contender.

  9. Kendall Marshall’s emergence as a viable PG under MDA could undermine one of our PGs time as a Laker. As many have predicted, we should be having a guy not named Steve as a starting PG to finish the season. Except we all thought it would be Jordan Farmar, and it might still happen, but as of now its Kendall Marshall.

    With more fans being educated with luxury tax matters due to the Bynum/Gasol trade talks, its good for the fan base and we should know that we have options getting under the tax even by not trading Gasol. We still could, as the title suggests that he’s staying – FOR NOW.

    The Lakers have historically been conscious of the luxury tax. Contrary to most fans that say “ah we just signed 3B tv deal, 20M is peanuts” … , there is actually hard evidence that the Lakers indeed ARE cost-conscious even during the time of the late Dr. Buss.

    Proof:

    Nov. 20, 2007 the Lakers sent Brian Cook to the Orlando Magic for Mo Evans. This move eliminated Cook’s 2-yr deal while getting a good contributor at guard in Mo Evans. He was an expiring contract then. And of course some guy named Trevor Ariza was a throw in.

    Feb. 1, 2008 the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Enough said on this one.

    Feb, 7, 2009 the Lakers traded Vladimir Radmanovic’s 2-yr deal in exchange for Adam Morrison’s expiring contract and Shannon Brown, whom we later on signed for 2 more years.

    Dec. 15, 2010 the Lakers traded a 1st round pick plus Sasha Vujacic’s 2-yr deal in exchange for Joe Smith’s corpse.

    Dec. 10, 2012 the Lakers traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavs for a TPE and a 1st rounder.

    Mar. 15, 2012 the Lakers traded a 1st round pick plus Luke Walton’s 2-yr deal in exchange for Ramon Sessions.

    Mar. 15, 2012 the lakers traded Derek Fisher’s 2-yr deal in exchange for Jordan Hill whom we later signed for 2 more years.

  10. the post above is proof of 3 things:
    1. We have a competent front office;
    2. We know how to find bargains in signings and in trades;
    3. We have always been cost-conscious even when Dr. Buss was around.

    The next move I predict is that we will be trading Steve Blake for a TPE from 1 of the teams that want/need a backup PG. This won’t happen till he’s healthy but it would reduce our payroll by 4 million and our tax-payables by about 6. If we could get $$ in the deal then all the better.

    Keeping Gasol means keeping Sacre (under contract next year) but jeopardizing Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman. If you want to count Shawne Williams well him too. The next move might be a combination of trading Blake + Kaman or Blake + Jordan Hill for a TPE and some form of future asset preferably a 1st rounder. If its Blake + Kaman, then most-likely its a min contract plus a 2nd rounder or such. If its Blake + Hill, it MIGHT net a 1st rounder, who knows.

    The Lakers are a team thats managed well. Despite contrary comments from several known posters, these moves are actually sound ones. Cut salary, reduce payroll, get a contributor. If they ask for too much, they can leave.

    We often forget our ability to find gems was not limited to Mike D’Antoni. Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown, Jordan Hill… these are all signs of a competent and dare I say the best GM in the land Mitch Kupchak.

  11. Darius,
    Thank you for the post. I really forgot just how difficult it would be to get back above the Luxury Tax line in 15/16, regardless what we do this year. That puts quite a different emphasis on what we do with Pau, or anyone else.

    The new CBA changes the dynamics on how to rebuild and all the clubs have had to design different strategies going forward. It looks like this is the Laker strategy – picking up previous 1st round picks and a coach who can use and develop them, while waiting for our draft picks to arrive – since we traded away so many. Thank heaven for the Ted Stepien rule.

    Traditionalists are going to go nuts, but the Lakers will rebuild – just not in the next two years. By not trading Pau now we have a chance to 1) trade him later, or 2) keep him and have a chance to sign him for less this summer.

    I think the possibility of a sign-and-trade has been largely eradicated going forward, as the new CBA unrolls over time. Does anyone have anything definite about this aspect of the CBA?

  12. WWL: With regard to the cap vs. the tax: Where the TW deal and other revenue apples, is when discussing the tax. As you know, the tax (as opposed to a hard cap) allows teams to exceed the cap if they want to pay up. If one team is in a big market and makes tons of dough, they are more likely to be able to pay the tax. Whether they want to or not is another matter. However, in the Lakers case, the tax should not effect basketball decisions, because they are a cash machine. You do make a good point that some of our deals have been simply to put money in owner’s pockets. Let’s look at the deals and see if we see a pattern.

    2007: Cook for Evans and Ariza (I would say this worked out pretty well)
    2008: Gasol/Gasol deal – 2 titles
    2009: We trade Vladimir for Shannon and Morrison (I would say this worked out pretty well). Of course we later let Shannon walk but he played on our title teams so this was good.

    2010: Sasha and a 1st round pick for nothing (clearly not for basketball reasons)
    2011: We dump Odom for a TPE and a 1st round pick (clearly not for basketball reasons)
    2012: We trade Luke and a 1st round pick for Sessions who later leaves. So basically we threw away a first round pick.
    2012; We trade Fisher and a 1st round pick (you left that out) for Hill who promptly enters the dog house and will probably be gone soon. So again we dumped a first round pick.

    You left off the Nash trade and the CPIII deals, I guess because they did not save money (which is why I am not sure why Gasol is on here – that trade did not save money either).

    With Nash we sent 2 firsts and 2 second round picks. The best deal was of course met with a VETO.

    The DH/Bynum deal ended up being nothing for nothing in the long run (inclusive of Earl Clark), except of course that we lost yet anther pick.

    In summary, since 2010, we have dumped 4 first round picks (actually 5 but we also received 1) and 2 seconds. We shipped out Sasha, Odom, Luke, and Fisher. What we have to show for all that is Nash in street clothes, Sessions in a Bobcat uni, and Jordan Hill in the doghouse.

    Now is ALL of this the FO’s fault? No. However is it ALL bad luck? No. Dr. Buss ? It does appear that the less influence he has, the worse the deals get. The record is what it is.

  13. Who knows if Pau would have stayed with Cleveland, but boy did Gilbert screw up this one. I think Pau would’ve brought a calming presence to that locker room and most importantly crucial veteran leadership and championship experience. Now I expect Kyrie to bounce when he has the chance.

    I’m sure whatever happens Kupchak is cooking up ways to improve the future of this team. I believe in Kupchak!

  14. The new sign-and-trade rules make it less appealing for the player involved since it will be essentially the same amount as he’d get from signing with a cap space team outright. For instance, if Melo were to sign with the Lakers it would be at 105% of what he makes now x 4yrs x 4.5% raise. In the event of a sign-and-trade anywhere, it would be that same amount. If he stayed with New York, it would be the same starting salary of 22,564,500 but for max of 5yrs and max of 7.5% raises every year.

  15. mud is right: The Lakers never leak trades. If it’s in the news, it’s not going to happen. It’s so typical to see that I imagine they insist that if anything leaks, the deal is off.

    The only reliable thing that I see when they’re about to make trades is that the team tends to feature players that are on the block. If the 9th guy suddenly starts playing 25 minutes a night, I tend to assume that Mitch is making calls, and past history has shown it’s usually with a team they’re about to play–easier to get the new acquisitions to practice right away if you’re already in the same city.

    For instance, Shawne Williams has been playing more minutes that usual over the past few weeks. Much of this is attributable to the fact that half the team is hurt or playing hurt–he picked up Henry’s minutes and Johnson missed a game or two, so I doubt he was ever in the mix for a serious deal but he’s a good example. Read a game thread the next day and scan for 5-10 comments saying “Why does MDA have _______ in the game, he’s stinking up the joint!”. That’s the guy that they’re making calls about.

  16. Thanks Warren. I thought the sign-and-trade would be less important to players going forward. Therefore, I expect players to simply sign with a club, rather than resign with their original club and immediately be traded.

  17. the other Stephen January 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Shawne Williams has been waived.

  18. We shipped out Sasha, Odom, Luke, and Fisher

    I see your point, but as I have said before, I think you are far too attached to the guys who were part of the title teams. 3 of those 4 are out of the NBA, and Fisher’s only value is leadership, etc. OKC still uses him, of course, but his tangible, measurable contributions are nil. The fact that MDA doesn’t like Hill is a drag, but Hill, in terms of measurable contributions, is worth Fisher and a late 1st. Also, the Odom TPE was used to fit Nash in the payroll.

    As to the rest, from 2009 until this past summer, the FO followed a pattern of:

    1. Making short-term moves, trying to get another title out of the Kobe era, which meant acquiring veterans.
    2. Cutting costs at the margins, often by getting rid of/selling off draft picks.

    Also, WWL left off the Lakers’ decision to sell Toney Douglas for cash. The Lakers took him with the 29th pick in 2009 and sold him to the Knicks. The pick they got back, a 2nd rounder, was used to take Goudelock. Douglas is still in the league, on Golden State, and has been really bad this year, but he has done some good work as a reserve in the past.

    WWL was talking money, but the FO did a very questionable job constructing the last two benches as well.

    So, the FO’s track record is a very mixed bag since the titles, and deserves neither total condemnation nor unfettered applause. The Paul Veto, ultimately, buys them more time in my mind.

    What is very clear is that the Lakers are in trouble, and the road back to contention will probably be a difficult one.

  19. The Bulls: the savings they are getting here is probably a prelude to:

    a) Amnestying Carlos Boozer
    b) Bringing Mirotic over

    They will probably have something like 30M in cap space this summer.