SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 26: Referee Scott Twardoski separates DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during their game at Power Balance Pavilion on December 26, 2011 in Sacramento, California. Both players were issued a technical foul. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Let me preclude this discussion by noting that the Maloofs are broke, and probably cannot afford to make the moves discussed herein.
Pau Gasol is almost assuredly on the market. He nearly got traded for Chris Paul in December, he had a down season and a rough postseason, he's a year older, and he's likely going to come cheaper this summer when L.A. officially takes suitors. Cheaper is a relative term -- his trade value is knocked a bit, but he's due $19 million next season and $19.3 million in 2013-14. In that season, Tyreke Evans will be making a much higher salary (assuming he remains in Sacramento), but DeMarcus Cousins will not yet be beyond his rookie scale deal.
That's a lot of money for a big man on the wrong side of 30 who isn't a defensive ace. Pau will turn 32 in July, and he has nearly 33,000 NBA minutes racked up, plus pre-NBA seasons in Europe and international summer play almost every year. His efficiency dropped this season, but he's a slightly better defensive rebounder than Jason Thompson, a better scorer and passer, rarely tallies turnovers and has all the experience you'd want.
His All-Star days seem to be in the past, but he'd instantly give the Kings' one of the league's best front lines. Is that enough? The Lakers had an elite front line and Kobe Bryant and failed. The stakes, however, are different: the Lakers fail if they do not win a championship. No one would consider Sacramento a failure if they didn't win a title before Gasol's contract ended in 2014. Making the playoffs would be a success for this club and this city, something to spark life and help assess fully the teams' needs and weaknesses.
Because of those expectations vs. the potential of growth toward the ultimate prize, though, I can't imagine giving up Cousins, Evans or the first-round pick for Gasol. The Wizards in 2009 gave up the No. 5 pick to add some roleplayers who the team believed would push Washington toward contention. It failed, delayed the rebuild and cost the Wizards a valuable asset. Giving up the 2012 pick would hold the same potential for the Kings; trading Evans is a similar issue. You're giving up the potential for greatness to make the team better (but not great) in the immediate.
But can the job get done without any of those three assets? Even if the Maloofs could afford to pay up to the salary cap, it's doubtful that there won't be better offers for Gasol than any combination Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas, plus future picks (which would have to be *really* future because of the Casspi-Hickson trade). We'll see how the market for Gasol shakes out, but it doesn't appear that the Kings could be a match unless they are willing to mortgage the future or give up on Tyreke.