So my good friend Bahador and I spent an HOUR on the phone, talking about all the teams in the NBA, and the maybe super slight chance that ANYONE would want to take Pau Gasol, given our ‘it’s doubtful we fire Mike D’Antoni’ situation.
As we went through all 32 teams, it became more and more apparent how fewer and fewer teams would ever dare to help the Lakers after the Dwightmare. Even most of the teams with WORSE records than the Lakers would say ‘go to hell’, or they just can’t make the money figures work. And remember, the Lakers have basically NO future draft picks to offset a lack of financial compatibility (we gave up most to get Ramon Sessions, then even more to get Steve Nash).
However… ONE team seemed to pop out at us as a POSSIBILITY, because even they are in trouble and might be able to use Pau Gasol.
The Sacramento Kings
Have you recovered from your stunned silence and/or rolling over in laughter? Good. Hear me and Bahador out.
The Kings are a team that, like the Lakers, are very much in disarray. They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, they’re young, immature, undisciplined, and head coach Keith Smart is CONSTANTLY fighting with one of their stars, the insane but talented DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins (yes Noz, his nickname really is BOOGIE). The Kings have indicated that Cousins, for better or worse, is their future and Coach Smart may get ditched in order to find someone that can harness DeMarcus’ skills (and overcome his behavior) to make him a true all-star.
Tyreke Evans was their other big up and coming star just a few years back, but quickly the Kings started to lose faith in him as proven by their signing of 3 MORE PGs, all whom are doing quite well: Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette, and Isaiah Thomas. Evans is still young and talented, but looking more and more like the odd man out. As a combo guard (I likened him to a young Gilbert Arenas, Baha further clarified by saying he penetrates the middle more while Arenas had a better jumper) he’s a great player, but just isn’t getting the time he needs to blossom with 3 other guys rotating in his spot (4 if you count pure SG Marcus Thornton for the 2 spot Evans can play well).
With C/PF Cousins seen as the team’s future, he needs some serious MENTORING to get him to mature faster (like how Steve Nash has helped Darius Morris mature a bit)… this is where Gasol comes in. Pau is still extremely skilled, but he’s getting up there in age and his contract is pretty large. The Lakers, especially if they can use a young and skilled perimeter player can use Evans at the 1 and 2, backing up (and eventually succeeding) Nash and Kobe… Oh and he just turned 23 in September, so if Mike D’Antoni can make this work right he’d have Evans and Howard as a young, running, scoring, and defending duo for at least 5-7 years.
But there’s even more that needs to be looked at financially for both teams. The Lakers want to be pretty open come the summer of 2014 for whatever star sweepstakes are going on then (AND to alleviate the luxury tax headaches of next season). The Kings just want to get some of their young players to grow the hell up, and play as a TEAM instead of scrambling around all the time. Since the Lakers don’t have draft picks to really give up, they can just give Pau, as long as the Kings can give us other players with Tyreke Evans, others who’s contracts have expiring options:
Tyreke Evans would get a chance to play with Steve Nash, get some mentoring from him and Kobe, and even get some starts in front of the humble Nash as he (hopefully) quickly picks up the free flow style D’Antoni is trying to force the players to play (and failing MISERABLY with in terms of Pau, at the moment). Role-wise he and Dwight Howard would be a strong, young, and fast defensive duo, and it would help with the post-Kobe transition considerably. Salary-wise he’s quite manageable for now, with a qualifying offer of $6.9 million next season. I looked up in the CBA and basically that means Evans is a restricted free agent prior to the 2013-14 season, and if the Lakers want to pay him just $6.9 million (still part of his rookie contract) they CAN. They can also say forget it if they don’t like what he’s done, or more likely give him a bigger contract for the 2014-15 season. The smart move would be to give him the QO, then come 2014-15 see if there’s a chance to get another star, OR just stick with Tyreke if other available stars sign elsewhere (LeBron, Carmelo) and/or Tyreke and Dwight really do well together.
In terms of the other pieces needed to make this work, Francisco Garcia (SF, 32 years old, $6.1 million this season) and John Salmons (SF, 33 years old, $8.1 million this season) may add to our glut of small forward currently full of Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark (out indefinitely), and Antawn Jamison (sort of)… but they might even be an improvement over anyone not named MWP. On one hand one of them becomes a backup to Metta when Jamison doesn’t crack the rotation, but on the other there are financial benefits that are even MORE tempting. Garcia’s contract has a team option for next season, so you can basically expect the Lakers to cut him no problem. Salmons is still on the books next year, but at a lower rate of just $7.6 million. He has a team option for $7.0 million prior to the 2014-15 season the Lakers would be sure to NOT exercise, whether they can net another star or not, giving them even MORE flexibility going forward.
1 young star that needs PG/SG guidance and a chance to shine and 2 aging forwards with team options in each of their last years, talk about a great deal for the Lakers! So what do the Kings get out of this? They clear up the forwards logjam these old guys are causing with Travis Outlaw, Tyler Honeycutt, James Johnson, Jason Johnson, and Thomas Robinson are already fighting for… they get out of the PG infighting they have with Evans competing with other young’uns mentioned above, and most importantly they get a skilled big man for the post they so desperately NEED to mentor and teach DeMarcus Cousins how to get to the next level. Pau and DeMarcus together might sound like an odd pair, but I’m sure whether they play together (like Pau and Bynum did) or they alternate a bit more (like Pau and Dwight are doing this year) Pau’s focus and maturity will most likely rub off on Cousins a good deal and help them form success for the team.
This is really a rare win-win for two teams in desperate need of change. I’m a big supporter of the Lakers getting rid of Mike D’Antoni in order to bring back Phil Jackson or signing Jerry Sloan up for the gig… but with so much money still being paid to the now ‘retired’ Mike Brown, and the Lakers giving Mike D’Antoni a 4 YEAR CONTRACT the Lake Show may need to get him the pieces he needs rather than continue to force some of the players to be what they’re not (in Pau’s case, an outside 3 point shooting big).