When it comes to 'why' you'd deal Pau Gasol for anything young and/or cheap, you can read my post-Noah-injury post that explains the motivations pretty thoroughly.
When it comes to the how and where to make such a deal, I've very likely put more thought into it than the Bulls front office will. For one thing, I don't think they are very dedicated to their jobs (and have minimal brainpower doing said jobs), but also that's not really their style to make an in-season trade that'd hurt the Bulls 'competitiveness', such as it is, for the rest of this season. Pau is still pretty damned good! And he'll help the Bulls win games the rest of this season.
He could help other teams though...and the Bulls could get something of use back. This hopefully won't be like the Luol Deng trade situation, where the apparent goal was to immediately get under the luxury tax at the expense of actual assets in return. The Bulls could go that route again (they're exceeding $4m over the tax right now) so that's worth worrying about.
I didn't individually source every random tidbit in here, but they ultimately came from:
- Basketball Insiders for the team salary information
- RealGM for the draft picks owed
- And of course the ESPN Trade Machine, a beautiful gift that I'm sick of seeing being abused with 'eh I can trade the Sixers for LeBron and it 'works' so isn't it stupid?' No, YOU'RE stupid, Mr. Strawman. And 'flotsam' is a term that Zach Lowe always uses to describe contracts to add for salary-matching that I enjoy typing.
teams I think that could use Pau and would trade for him:
Clippers: need for the last 2 seasons has been simply more NBA-viable talent. They don't need Pau as much as a wing, but especially with Blake Griffin's extended absence and jettisoning of Josh Smith he'd be given minutes, plus DeAndre Jordan could somewhat help his mistakes defensively.
Mavericks: Probably know they're not a West contender, but always looking to improve in Dirk's waning chances at it. Doesn't have a natural fit alongside Dirk, but they could stagger minutes with defensive bigs like Pachulia and McGee to make it work a bit better.
Thunder: Definitely going for the NBA Title. Could probably be the nominal starter next to Ibaka, though I'd see him sitting in crunch time.
Celtics: Have no incentive to lower their draft position as they have Brooklyn's selection, and have a pretty deep and good team already with not much playoff success to show for it yet. Should be looking to improve, is my point.
Raptors: Seem to need to at least get out of the first round at least, and with Lowry and DeRozan they're not actually that young of a core. Bonus if they can actually challenge the Cavs.
Rockets: Sort of similar to the Mavericks, probably know they can't beat the West's top 2 seeds but are usually willing to make upgrades when possible. Have been linked to Gasol for a while.
Teams that probably could use him but don't see a trade happening:
Keep in mind that while Pau doesn't have a no-trade clause, a team isn't going to trade for him knowing he won't be happy there, and what makes him happy is either championship contention or at least a lot of minutes in his contract year:
Knicks: Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher connection, and they could use another big to spell Porzingis. But they have no assets anyway even if they were interested in using one for a short-term upgrade. Also he wouldn't have a starting spot unless they benched Porzingis, which would be kinda nuts.
Kings: A perfect trade partner, as it'd only help their playoff position and give that protected pick to the Bulls. Also they seem easily duped. I just don't see Pau going there though.
Pacers and Hornets and Magic: Trying for a playoff bid, and Pau would get some playing time, but he wouldn't want to be in either city/situation.
Hawks: No room in the frontcourt with Milsap and Horford (and to a lesser extent, Splitter)
Wizards: Same thing with Nene and Gortat, and they may not even make the playoffs even with a Pau acquisition.
Heat: I think they may do something bigger with Whiteside if they consider a Pau move, because benching him for Pau seems like a good way to implode the locker room. This is somewhat interesting though.
Los Angeles Clippers
Draft Picks: They can't really trade a future first. They have 2017 protected pick owed already so it'd have to be 2 years after that's conveyed.
Young players: CJ Wilcox is the only one who is on the rookie-scale, picked 28th in 2014. He hasn't been given minutes all, which is not really indicative of much given his coach and the team's status. However it's a red flag that he's already turned 25. Austin Rivers is a year younger and has a relatively cheap player-option for next year ($3.3m)
Flotsam and trade ideas: could get Wilcox and Rivers (sending Aaron Brooks back to be a better backup PG for them) and then the remaining Clippers salary would come from an expiring deal like Jamal Crawford or Lance Stephenson. Lance they'd hopefully just waive, and the Bulls have no real use for Crawford either but could potentially flip him in a 3-way deal. Cole Aldrich would be nice as someone to soak up center minutes for the rest of this season.
Draft Picks: They have all of their own picks, and 2 more coming their way. One is that aforementioned protected pick from the Clippers.
Young players: They just drafted PG Delon Wright, but he's currently behind two guys they've committed to long-term
(Lowry and Corey Joseph). Also a pair of big young Brazilians (BYBs) in Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo. I'm not going to pretend to know much of them beyond that BYB characteristic. I mean, Christiano Felicio is one too, but he was undrafted whereas those two were first-rounders.
Flotsam and trade ideas: If you get 2 of those young guys, all you'd further need for a trade match is our old pal James Johnson and his $2.5m expiring. I think Jimmy Johns would actually help the team, too. They use and like Luis Scola too much to include him. Patrick Patterson is somewhat affordable at $6m next season but is at a position the Bulls really don't need.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft Picks: Already owing a 2016 and 2018 first, so nope.
Young players: Sam Presti, boy wonder, kind of used up his last bullets at the trade deadline last year. They do have 2015 draftee Cameron Payne which would be nice. Mitch McGary is only 23, but can't say he'd play a center role alongside the Bulls other PFs. Josh Huestis is already 24 and can't even do much in the D-League, and was only a first-rounder because the Thunder wanted to low-ball his salary.
Flotsam and trade ideas: The Thunder are way over the tax as it is but are going for it, so what's a little more for Gasol? Steve Novak's expiring deal and Payne isn't technically enough, but if you do a Brooks for DJ Augustin swap in there it'd get you there. Or they just throw in Huestis. This may be a deal that you make larger by including Tony Snell, who'd sadly kind of help them.
Draft Picks: Owe their 2016 protected from the Ty Lawson deal, so it'd be a 2018 at earliest. Seems doubtful.
Young Players: Terrence Jones is in category of being at the one position the Bulls don't need, and he's a restricted Free Agent, so that just doesn't seem to be in the cards. I'm assuming Clint Capela is untouchable. Montrezl Harrell was the 32nd pick last year and signed to the Morey special (he had it before Hinkie), but also just 6'-8". KJ McDaniels was the 32nd pick in 2014 and the Rockets took a chance locking him up, but he barely plays now and I would consider him available (and though he can't shoot, at least he's a wing athlete). Sam Decker is out with injury. Donatas Motiejunas is a 7-footer (news to me!) but he's a restricted free agent. That's better than unrestricted like Gasol is though, and he'll be 26 to start next year.
Flotsam and trade ideas: Motiejunas + McDaniels would be a nice haul, though not enough outgoing salary. It's close enough though that taking on Marcus Thornton or Harrell would be enough. [Note: Houston is actually extremely close to the hard cap, so any trade would have to see them taking in less money or very close to even money than what they're sending out. The Trade Machine sadly does not account for this.] Given it's the Rockets, they'd probably consider moving out Trevor Ariza or Corey Brewer in a deal for Gasol. They're both signed through 2017-18 and aren't young, but the Bulls do have gaping hole at the wing. I'm not sure I'd do it but it's an interesting 're-load' trade idea, whereas the rest of these are more dump-y.
Draft Picks: woo-boy. They have so many there's no way they can use them all. They're slated to have 3 first-rounders this year alone, and in future years protected picks from Memphis and Minnesota plus a unprotected Brooklyn pick.
Young Players: Boston has a lot of guys bumping up against the end of their rookie deals (like Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger) but then more in the pipeline that were either former first-rounders (Terry Rozier, James Young) or second-rounders signed for a couple more seasons (Jordan Mickey, RJ Hunter).
Flotsam and trade ideas: Zeller at $2.6m is sort of just for salary aggregation here, but he just turned 26, Bulls would have his restricted free-agency rights, and he could take center minutes for the rest of the season. Zeller, and 2 of Rozier/Mickey/Hunter/Young is enough salary, and they have so many picks you'd think one could be sprung free. Or get in on whatever massive deal I'm sure the Celtics are cooking up with David Lee.
Draft Picks: The Mavs have historically eschewed building through the draft anyway, so it's possible that though their 2016 first-rounder is gone they'd put in a protected future one.
Young players: Justin Anderson is their 2015 draft pick, a wing Ricky liked in his draft prep. John Jenkins is a first-round washout and will turn 25 in March, but he's signed to 2 more cheap non-guaranteed years. Salah Mejri is 29 but did do this in an NBA game and he's large. Dwight Powell is hitting restricted free agency but would provide fill-in minutes.
Flotsam and trade ideas: trade works as Anderson+Harris/Felton for Gasol. You can do a little doing something with Brooks (since we're getting a PG back) and minimum salaries, but yeah it'd essentially be Anderson as the prize.
Now again, this is kind of a useless exercise since the Bulls probably aren't looking to make a deal. But the idea that they can't because Gasol wouldn't get you anything as a 'rental' just doesn't hold water to me. I think there are deals out there! Rajon Rondo was dealt last year for a first-rounder and Jae Crowder, who was an underperforming rookie-scale guy approaching restricted free agency, and is now signed on a very valueable contract. Pro scouting can happen, where you identify players who aren't doing well on other teams but could potentially flourish on yours.
Of the teams I presented above, the Raptors and Celtics stand out the most as they're most likely to be give up a first-round pick. Though both are competing with the Bulls in these East playoffs and it'll sting a bit to see Gasol rain mid-range jumpers on us, getting a first-rounder has to be considered. The whole idea is to not so much steal the next great young find, but to simply improve your asset base for another deal later, as opposed to just opening up cap space with Gasol walking.
Would you take what those teams would offer if there was no first-round pick? Or the other teams that likely won't offer a first-rounder, but one that was recently selected? I think I would. OK, maybe not that Clippers one.
Now to run these scenarios all back for Taj Gibson... (not yet)