Lakers Trade Rumors: Is Pau Gasol Nearing His End In Los Angeles?

By Jason Van Hoven, Posted: 09/06/12 12:55PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol might be closer to his end wearing purple and gold.

The Lakers' acquisition of superstar center Dwight Howard for this season presents both a huge benefit and drawback: while the team is now most likely in a great position to win an NBA title, it will be committing almost $100 million in salary, which puts it well over the luxury tax. And that will probably get the Lakers financially thinking ahead to next season, a season in which they will still be over the cap.

As a result, general manager Mitch Kupchak may consider this season trading one veteran who is under a hefty contract for the 2013-2014 season.

It's not possible to fathom that Kobe Bryant would get traded. Steve Nash was just acquired in a trade and Metta World Peace can still provide tough defense.

That would leave Gasol, who will make $39 million over the next two seasons, as the odd man out.

Gasol has steadily produced 18 points and 9 rebounds during his five years in Los Angeles, but he is 32 years old. Should he fall below those numbers or get out-produced by Howard before the 2013 trade deadline, it's not far-fetched to think that there would only be room for one big man in the future. His salary might be too much for a fourth option - behind Bryant, Howard and Nash - to carry into next season, especially under the new economic framework of the latest collective bargaining agreement.

History also speaks to a future Gasol trade. NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed a three-team trade in early December 2011 that would have sent point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers, Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom and Goran Dragic to the New Orleans Hornets. The Spaniard was also rumored in several trades during last season, one of which included the Minneosta Timberwolves.

Of course, Howard's promise to only consider re-signing with the Lakers after the season is over complicates matters. If Gasol is traded and Howard walks in free agency, then the team is left with just one big man next season in Jordan Hill.

Nevertheless, Houston and the Atlanta Hawks look like two teams that could show some interest in getting Gasol, taking on his salary for this season and next and then re-signing him long-term. Both teams have less than $25 million in guaranteed contracts for next season, which even bodes well in acquiring more than one player other than Gasol.

As for the Lakers, they should probably pull the trigger, part ways with Gasol and receive some young talent that adds more youth to an aging roster.

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