Feb 2, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The Phoenix Suns have gotten solid production this season out of Miles Plumlee and rookie Alex Len at the center spot, but if you’re looking for a place they could upgrade at the trade deadline it would be a guy who can get them consistent points in the paint, especially come the playoffs when the game will slow down and they will have to produce better in the halfcourt.
Someone like the Lakers Pau Gasol.
The Suns have said they would be active at the trade deadline and now comes word they are exploring trading the big Emeka Okafor and his expiring deal for Gasol, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers’ four-time All-Star.
One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor’s $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol’s $19.3 million…
How much the Suns would be willing to add beyond Okafor to a potential trade for Gasol, in terms of young talent or draft compensation, remains to be seen. But Suns officials have made no secret of the fact that the team’s wholly unexpected 29-18 start — despite playing without the injury Eric Bledsoe for the last 17 games — has led to some revisions in their long-term planning.
Gasol, when healthy, would give the Suns a skilled scorer in the half court — but he has not been fully healthy this season. He is out for the next week with a groin strain, for example.
The question is could the Suns get more for Okafor and a sweetener? (They have four first round picks in this draft and two in the 2015 draft.) Gasol is a free agent this summer and will have multiple offers to consider, the Suns have to take this into consideration.
Why would the Lakers do this? Reasons they would publicly disavow. They would get worse, racking up more and more Ping-Pong balls in the lottery, plus they would save money with this deal — if it is just Gasol for Okafor the Lakers would be just $3 million over the luxury tax line, something they could make a smaller move to get under. The Lakers would push for one of those picks, but the Suns are not likely to help out the Lakers with financial relief and a pick.
It is unlikely Gasol is back with the Lakers next season so if he is not traded to the Suns he will be shopped around. Thing is, not a lot of teams are willing to take on that massive salary.
The Suns are one of the few exceptions.