The Suns are expected to offer a package involving center Emeka Okafor, who has not played this season due to a neck injury. Okafor’s $14.5 million salary falls short of Gasol’s $19.3 million this season, which will require Phoenix to use $5.8 of their salary cap space to fill the gap between the contracts.
Last season, Okafor averaged 9.4 points with 8.8 rebounds in 79 games played as a member of the Washington Wizards. He was acquired by the Suns as part of the deal that sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards last offseason.
A deal involving both players would place Los Angeles less than $3 million away from the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold. As for the Suns, they have been aggressively attempting to trade their injured big man, with whoever acquiring the nine-year veteran having the chance to clear more than $5 million in salary space due to Okafor’s insurance coverage.
Los Angeles has been willing to take offers for Gasol, as they are looking to unload his contract and free up more salary cap space for the upcoming offseason. They had held trade talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers in late December through early January in an attempt to agree to a deal that centered around a swapping of Gasol for former Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
The acquisition of Bynum for Los Angeles was on the basis that he would be waived to help save the team over $20 million in salary cap space. However, the deal fell through as it was reported that the Lakers were looking to acquire additional assets such as a draft pick or a young player. After the trade talks stalled, Cleveland then traded Bynum to Chicago Bulls in exchange for forward Luol Deng in a salary cap dump.
So with trade talks involving Gasol heating up again, the Lakers may request to add either a draft pick or young player to deal in order for any transaction to occur.
Phoenix, on the other hand, has interest in the 33-year-old that may stem from the basis of their unexpected success this season as they sit at a 29-18 record. The Suns appear to be looking to obtain a proven veteran player who can help the Suns maintain their success and reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
As for Gasol, despite an MRI on Saturday revealing a strained right groin that will force him out for the next three games he has played at a high level as he has scored 20 or more points in the last 1o games and recorded 11 double-doubles in the month of January.
It will be interesting to see if trade talks continue to progress as the Lakers are currently going through a difficult stretch as they have lost 18 out of the last 21 games. This is also to go along with the trade deadline on Feb. 20 less than three weeks away. But as with all trade rumors involving Gasol, it should be taken with a grain of salt until a deal is official.
Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill, AP