Unless something unpredictable happens, Pau Gasol will be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum. While it seems sad that a two-time champion with the franchise is being moved, a better front office would have pulled the trigger on the trade sooner.
Right now? The Lakers are trying to get more than just Bynum from the deal. The Cleveland Cavaliers want only one thing – getting Bynum off the roster by January 7, before the next $6.3 million on his deal (paid him $6 million by now) become guaranteed. The Cavs want nothing to do with the player who doesn’t seem that interested in playing basketball, or for them at least. The Lakers are probably going to cut him the moment they acquire him.
The Lakers do get Gasol’s salary off the salary bill, but he was becoming a free agent in any case. The biggest plus in trading Gasol and what remains of his $19 million salary is the relief in tax bills. Around $20 million in luxury tax and maybe more important, avoiding the repeater tax penalty, in either 2015 or ’16. Just a reminder: If a team is in the luxury tax in four out of any five years, it triggers the repeater tax.
The Lakers have given up on trying to win this season. A six game losing streak has been stopped, but making the playoffs, with or without Kobe Bryant, seems impossible. Gasol getting traded now means nothing professionally. It means the world financially, but a lot more as a view of how badly things have been run in Los Angeles over the last few years.
Gasol could have brought them an actual benefit via trade in terms of players the Lakers could use to build for the future. Signing Kobe Bryant for a couple of years on a $24 million per season deal doesn’t make sense, but waiting so long for Gasol to be traded isn’t the smartest decision either. From someone who could have yielded the Lakers an All-Star player he becomes salary relief, nothing more after almost seven seasons with the team, helping them reach three consecutive NBA finals.
What of Bynum? Someone will pick him up, although teams will be weary of adding him to the roster. Bynum seems to have become something of a negative locker room experience, or maybe it’s simply his disillusionment with the Cavs, hoping he was playing for a winning team and ending up on one of the worst clubs in the East.
Gasol? He might actually make the Cavs a playoff team if Kyrie Irving doesn’t miss too many games, but it seems like his time as a star in the NBA is over. It has been for over a year, only he got paid so much money and was on the “right” franchise he seemed only one good game away from getting “it” back. Maybe playing without Mike D’Antoni will bring him back to that level, but right now he’s just another symbol of an illustrious franchise being run into the ground, mistake after mistake, by people who don’t have vision, foresight or any kind of ability to make the right decision at the right time.