January 07, 2014

The LA Lakers are now officially idiots; what about Cavs and #LBJ?

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol won't be trading places.
Blame either Laker greed or Laker stupidity.
A week ago, I said the Los Angeles Lakers needed to run, not walk, on the  rumored trade in the air between them and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which would have swapped disgruntled Lakers center Pau Gasol and currently disgrunted and temporarily suspended Cavaliers (and former Lakers) center Andrew Bynum.

The Lakers then could have dumped Bynum, rather than playing him, before most of his contract guaranteed, and reaped dual benefits. 

Come again?

Yep, and here's why on the first benefit:
By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum and then waiving Bynum, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers. A Gasol-Bynum trade would have to include at least one other player to make the deal work under league rules, and perhaps other assets from Cleveland.
But, tis not to be.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have changed focus and offered Bynum plus draft choices to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.

Why? In part, reportedly, the Lakers got greedy, asking for Dion Waiters as part of the mix, as well as possibly at least some of the draft choice swapping Cleveland did with the Bulls.

True that shooting guards, even young ones on the rise, may be a dime a dozen and that this is part of where the Lakers have need, at the same time. It was still an overplay. It was asking too much. And, the need probably could have been halfway been met elsewhere.

It also ignored the Lakers' other pressing need besides lux tax relief — rebuilding, and doing so on the fly.

The Lakers, further out of the last Western Conference playoff spot than the Cavs are in the East, threw away a gold-plated chance to tank, and tank hard.

Per previous blogging I've done ever since news of Kobe Bryant's downtime with a broken leg, this gives the Lakers the perfect, justifiable reason to start tanking and get in the Riggin' for Wiggins sweepstakes to nail down a shot at Kansas freshman star Andrew Wiggins.

Given that Steve Nash is likely out for the years and the Lakers have no true point guards, and that no Gasol eliminates a playmaker of sorts as well as a scorer and rebounder, it would be easy to accumulate plenty of lottery Ping-Pong balls this way.

Why the Lakers and GM Mitch Kupchak would want to wait, I don't know. By the time Kobe is back, they'll be deep in the Western Conference dust with no chance of coming back, anyway. Even without this trade and dump.

And, there's another good reason:
The Lakers have been luxury-tax payers for six straight seasons. While the luxury-tax savings this season -- and the ability to avoid the repeater tax penalty, which kicks in when a team is a taxpayer in four of five years, starting with the 2011-12 season -- would undoubtedly help the Lakers' long-term flexibility, the franchise's history and organizational culture make that a difficult prospect to consider.
So, the Lakers are the New York Yankees of the NBA, in essence. But, they had a chance to get smarter than the second generation of Steinbrenners. And got greedy, or were in self-denial about their playoff chances, or both. Either way, they got about as dumb as Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, after all.

Beyond that, Laker fans need to face reality even more than the front office. It's time to rebuild. This offers at least a puncher's chance of doing that relatively quickly and painlessly.

That said, I don't totally get the Cavs, either. Deng is a free agent after this season. I don't know what chance they have of signing him but, per this ESPN trade analysis story, it won't be cheap. And, while they may make the Eastern Conference playoffs now, unless they get to the No. 6 spot or higher, they'll be obliterated by either the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

On the other hand, somebody on Lake Erie may still believe they have a chance of getting LeBron James back if he opts out of his contract. Not resigning Deng would give the Cavs extra flexibility.

I'm nowhere near an NBA salary cap expert, but, it did get me to wondering. That said, that assumes that LBJ wouldn't simply accept a new five-year max contract from Miami.

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