With the Lakers struggling in a tough Western Conference and Kobe Bryant on the mend from yet another injury the NBA rumor mill is swirling once again regarding a potential Pau Gasol for former Lakers center Andrew Bynum. It’s been a difficult year and a half since Bynum was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers in the massive four-team trade the sent Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. The talented former Lakers center, when healthy and motivated a top three NBA center, has battled injuries and a lack of motivation the past two seasons. The Cleveland Cavaliers took a chance on the enigmatic center this offseason and it hasn’t quite worked out in Cleveland. On the surface the deal doesn’t make sense due to Bynum’s recent injury history and poor attitude, but a couple of interesting factors may create a deal that can benefit both clubs. Here’s a look at the positives and negatives of a potential Gasol for Bynum trade.
Positives for the Lakers: The deal would move Gasol and get some potential value for him, while helping the Lakers avoid a stiff luxury tax penalty. In making a decision like this the Lakers will need to decide whether or not Gasol is in their long term plans. It’s been an up and down year for Gasol in Los Angeles, who’s played at a level that doesn’t reflect is overall career. His motivation and interest has been questioned at times, especially when Bryant was injured. The Lakers have a $20 million option on Gasol for next season. If the decision is to not bring the big Spaniard back it’s important to maximize the value the Lakers get in return for Gasol, with the double benefit of having his expiring contract. Unfortunately for Los Angeles they wouldn’t necessarily be getting the same player they dealt two seasons ago. Bynum has had chronic knee injuries and has publicly stated that he could retire early due to knee problems. His motivation and attitude has also been extremely poor. If the Lakers are confident that Bynum’s knee problems won’t be career shortening, and a return to Los Angeles will improve his outlook, the move would make sense. Due to the contracts the Cavaliers would have to include another team or add another player to the deal. Bynum’s contract is only partially guaranteed for this season, so the Lakers could make the trade and then choose to waive Bynum. If the other asset they get from Cleveland is a solid one, Los Angeles would save a great deal of money and avoid punitive luxury tax penalties in the future while picking up an asset and creating cap space for next season. They could conceivably be a player for Bynum after this season, with the expectation that the former center will catch on with another club should the Lakers/Cavaliers waive him.
Negatives for the Lakers: Does Bynum have anything left in the tank? By virtually all media reports the big man has been a cancer both in Philadelphia and Cleveland. The Lakers have experience with his quirky personality and likely have some confidence they can turn around his attitude. The big factor is his health. Bynum may never regain the form he showed in Los Angeles or ever be able to give the Lakers the amount of minutes they need. A trade for Bynum should only be explored if the Lakers truly want to not bring Gasol back and when they’ve exhausted all potential high value trade options for Gasol. The decision to trade for Bynum and release him is interesting, but it also signals to the fan base that they feel they are not contenders this season. That decision makes sense in a tough Western Conference, but is never a popular message to send to your fan base.
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