According to the report, the Suns can offer a first-round draft pick and center Emeka Okafor — whose expiring contract is one of the most coveted on the trade market — in exchange for the All-Star big man. The Lakers are hoping to not only dump Gasol’s $19 plus million salary but accrue future draft picks in order to rebuild the roster. The Suns could possibly hold up to four first-round picks this season, if deals with their previous trading partners go accordingly.
Okafor has not played a minute this season due to a neck injury, but the 31-year-old veteran is making $14.5 million and is in the final year of his deal. There is an insurance clause in his contract that could help the Lakers cover about $5 million of his salary. There is no guarantee Okafor will be able to play at all this season.
Gasol, 33, is averaging 17.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season — and 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds over the past month — for a Lakers squad that is 16-31 and 11 games spots back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. According to the report, Gasol is comfortable with a trade to Phoenix because he is “eager to prove himself in a new system on a better team.”
The Suns 29-18 and currently hold the sixth spot in the West. Previously, general manager Ryan McDonogh told NBA.com the team is willing to trade one or multiple first-round picks in order to acquire a player who can have an immediate impact.
Gasol, too, is a free agent at the end of the season. Currently sidelined with a strained groin, Gasol is expected to be ready to return to the court as soon as next week. Should Gasol thrive in the Suns’ system, the team has the chance to sign him to a long-term deal and acquire his Larry Bird rights.
Earlier in January, Los Angeles engaged in trade talks with the Cleveland about a deal surrounding Gasol, but those discussions ended as soon as the Cavaliers sent Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Luol Deng.