Pau Gasol was one of the most frequently mentioned trade candidates in 2012, but he stayed put, and such chatter has decreased considerably in 2013, even though he’s on an expiring contract this year. It doesn’t appear now as if the Lakers will part with Gasol this season, but the four-time All-Star may nonetheless be playing his final games in purple and gold.
Kobe Bryant‘s two-year, $48.5MM extension took quite a chunk out of the Lakers’ projected cap space for this summer, leaving room enough under the cap for one marquee, maximum-salary free agent along the lines of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but little else. The Lakers have Gasol’s Bird Rights, so they can go over the cap to re-sign him if they want, but unless Gasol agrees to a pay cut soon after free agency begins, the Lakers would have to sacrifice those Bird rights in order to clear the cap space necessary to sign another team’s superstar. Gasol could make as much as $20,250,143 next season, so that salary will remain as a cap hold on the Lakers’ books until they either re-sign him at a cheaper salary or renounce his rights.
A pay cut seems inevitable for Gasol, who’s making nearly $19.3MM this season. Just how much he’ll have to sacrifice to remain with the Lakers is a matter of debate. Gasol has said already this season that he’d love to stay with the team, a stance he reiterated recently to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. He’s said he’ll prioritize more than just money as a free agent, and he’s close with Bryant, who wrote the foreword for his new book. Still, he acknowledges there are plenty of unknowns. Gasol could sign an extension, but he and the Lakers haven’t talked about it and it seems a long shot at best. Both sides appear willing to let free agency happen, leaving open the possibility that he could play for another team.
Gasol is 33, and his best years may be behind him, but he’s still one of the best and most versatile big men in the game. The challenge for the Lakers and the Arn Tellem client appears to be settling on a fair value for his services. Let us know whether you think they’ll come to an agreement or go their separate ways before next season. Feel free to elaborate in the comments.