In one of his recent Below the Rim podcasts, there was a passing moment where the host, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, and his guest, Grantland.com’s Chuck Klosterman, had tossed around a trade that was on the table between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers that would have sent All-Star power forward Pau Gasol to Cleveland and allow the Lakers to save a boat load of money in attempt to ultimately sign impending free agent Dwight Howard. It got little in the way of traction—likely for a few reasons—but it was one that raised a few eyebrows as the Cavaliers continue their disappointing play during the 2013-14 season.
Whatever happened to that deal, it appears that the lines of communication between Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant and the Lakers remains intact. Windhorst, with the help of ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne, reports that there is a deal in place, while not imminent, that would send Gasol to Cleveland, but for the expiring contract and wonky knees of the “excused” Andrew Bynum.
No deal is believed to be imminent, but both sides are mulling it over ahead of a Jan. 7 deadline when the second half of Bynum’s $12.25 million salary would be guaranteed. By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum and then waiving him, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salaries and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers. […]
The Lakers are reluctant to part with the four-time All-Star in any trade without receiving assets of some value in return, sources said.
The Lakers have been luxury-tax payers for six straight seasons. While the luxury-tax savings this season — and ability to avoid the repeater tax penalty that kicks in when a team is a taxpayer in four out of five years starting with the 2011-12 season — would undoubtedly help the Lakers’ long-term flexibility, the franchise’s history and organizational culture make that a difficult prospect to consider.
While adding another power forward would seem superfluous, Grant is under immense pressure to get this underachieving Cavaliers team into the post-season given their three-year drought. In addition to keeping his possibilities open with the Lakers, Grant has reportedly been in a wide range of discussions with the Chicago Bulls—a team also dealing with luxury tax issues—for All-Star small forward Luol Deng. Naturally, as with any deal of this nature, the devil is in the details. At least one other player (rumored to be small forward Alonzo Gee) and “assets” are said to be included. The Cavaliers have plenty of future first-round selections at their disposal, some fo which include multiple layers of protection.
Gasol, despite shooting a career-low 45 percent from the floor, would provide an offensive threat from the post, something the Cavaliers are sorely lacking. The 6-foot-9-inch Deng has battled Achilles injuries this season, playing in just 20 games, but is adding 20 points per night when healthy. Both players are impending free agents, so the Cavaliers would have to either be confident that a new contract could be agreed to or that they would be able to make a splash in the 2014 free agency season given the cap flexibility that has been accumulated since July, 2010.
(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)