The problem of trading Pau Gasol can be explained by using a line from Business 101:
Buy low, sell high.
Right now, it's hard to imagine Gasol's trade value ever being lower. To illustrate how far his stock has fallen, let's play our favorite comparison game of Player A vs. Player B.
Consider these two big men:
Age: 32 | Contract: 2 years/$19M annually | 2012-13 averages: 12.6 pts, 8.8 rebs, 42 FG%, 14.9 PER
Age: 31 | Contract: 3 years/$15.7M annually | 2012-13 averages: 13.7 pts, 9.1 rebs, 46 FG%, 16.7 PER
On the surface, which of the two players would you prefer? Of course, we're leaving out some pretty important variables including defense, passing and injury status. But play along for a minute. You might feel like Player B is the better asset on the surface, because he's more efficient, younger and cheaper salary-wise. The length of the contract isn't ideal, but you might be able to bite the bullet for the younger player. Player B actually looks somewhat palatable.
So, who are the two players?
Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out who Player A is. That's Gasol. His numbers are down, his knee is keeping him sidelined for the time being and he's currently producing at a mediocre level if we go by player efficiency rating (15 is average). To top it off, only five -- count 'em, five -- other players are due more money over the next two seasons. He's one of the most highly paid players in the game and delivering average numbers.
And Player B? Any guesses?
Yep, it's Carlos Boozer -- the guy who's generally considered one of the worst, if not the worst, albatrosses in the league.
Now, hold on, let's be fair: I'm not suggesting that these two players are equal in talent or value, for that matter. What I'm saying is that based on current production levels, the gap between Gasol and arguably the most overpaid player in the league isn't nearly as thick as Boozer's eyebrows.
Truthfully, if you want to visualize Gasol's trade value over the past three months, just look at Apple's stock (AAPL) over the same time period. Or just look at the backslash button on your keyboard. That's what we're dealing with here.
And that's the dilemma for the Lakers. If they try to deal Gasol now, they're violating the central rule of deal-making: don't sell low. In trade negotiations, that lack of leverage will make it very difficult to receive a strong haul. Sure, Gasol could return to his pre-Mike Brown All-Star levels, but then again, he is a 32-year-old center dealing with knee problems who can barely stay on the floor these days and almost no one wears a steeper price tag.
Also a potential issue: The Lakers have been very open about their interest in keeping a clean slate for the summer sweepstakes of 2014 (hello LeBron!) and anything lasting beyond that will make it tough to lure a big-name talent next to Steve Nash and presumably Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.
But because of fit issues, it makes sense that Gasol will eventually be dealt for a package featuring a stretch 4 who can space the defense and complement Mike D'Antoni's floor-spacing system.
Which teams make sense? Here are three options.