Is Pau Next?

It was apparent way back at the beginning of the offseason that the future was now, for the Raptors. Trading a guaranteed lottery pick for a talented PG who couldn’t stick with two different teams was the first signal that Bryan Colangelo was making a run for the playoffs this season.

When the team struggled to perform to his expectations, Colangelo put even more chips into the pot and traded for Rudy Gay.

So when rumours surfaced this week that Pau Gasol was the Raptors next target, was anyone surprised? While Pau is having the the worst season of his career, by far, that has more to do with his poor fit on the team than any decline in his skills. That isn’t to say that Gasol is still in his prime. He’ll turn 33 this summer and has struggled to stay healthy the last couple of years. So he’ll probably never return to the form that made him a perennial All Star, and it’s likely he will continue to decline as he gets older.

For the Raptors, though, he would immediately make them a likely playoff team in the weak East next season and might allow them to make a run at the 8th spot this season.. Next season, a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Jonas Valanciunas, with Amir Johnson coming off the bench would be pretty formidable.

I can see a lot of Raptor fans getting excited about that.

A couple of things, though.

First off, what exactly would the Raptors have to give up for Gasol? Obviously Andrea Bargnani would have to be included, just to make the salaries work, but also because of Bargnani’s ability to apparently work well in Mike D’Antoni’s system and be the stretch 4 beside Dwight Howard.

The question is, who else would need to be included.

Now, Gasol obviously has WAY more trade value that Bargnani, and when you include the fact that Bargnani’s contract is a year longer than Gasol’s, it’s evident the Raptors will need to give up some real talent.

There have been questions about whether DeMar DeRozan‘s similar skills would work beside Rudy Gay, so DeRozan might be a possibility. And a deal that would include Bargnani, DeRozan and Aaron Gray for Gasol actually works…

The problem is that DeRozan’s big extension kicks in next season and that would put the Lakers even farther into the luxury tax than if they didn’t trade Gasol. And I don’t see the Lakers doing that for Bargnani and DeRozan, two players who have a rather negligible, at best, effect on the win column.

There were reports that Colangelo refused to include Terrence Ross in the Rudy Gay trade, but I wonder if that was because he knew he would need him to move Bargnani. To me, a package of Bargnani, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross would be far more enticing to the Lakers.

Fields has already shown to be a great fit for D’Antoni’s offense, and Ross’ rookie contract and potential on both ends of the court might get the Lakers to pull the trigger.

Especially when a deal like this makes SO much sense…

Minnesota apparently covets Gasol. Atlanta doesn’t want any big contracts back, but Nikola Pekovic would allow Al Horford to move to PF and be a good fall back in case they can’t sign a guy like Dwight Howard this summer (Pekovic has an expiring contract). Derrick Williams still has potential and might flourish in a different system. Brandon Roy‘s contract isn’t fully guaranteed next season.

Josh Smith would be a far better fit at PF for the Lakers than Bargnani, partially because he’s simply a much better player. He’d immediately improve their defense, which is not very good, and his offensive skills suit D’Antoni’s system.

So it’s not as if the Lakers will be giving Gasol away. And if the Raptors have to trade Ross to get a 33 year old big man, past his prime with bad knees just so they can MAKE the playoffs next year, that’s going to really hurt the long term prospects of the team.

But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Colangelo do something like that.

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