The Chicago Bulls have discussed a deal that would send veteran big man Pau Gasol to the Sacramento Kings, reports The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix. Chicago is rumored to be shopping Gasol before the trade deadline on Thursday in order to get value for the 35-year-old before he becomes a free agent in the offseason.
The discussion that has "lingered" between Chicago and Sacramento is centered on a deal that would see Gasol and swingman Tony Snell shipped to the Kings in exchange for big man Kosta Koufos, guard Ben McLemore and "a lowering of the lottery protections on the 2016 first-round pick that Sacramento owes the Bulls."
The Kings currently owe the Bulls a 2016 first-round pick that is protected for picks 1-10. The two teams have talked about "lowering the protections further to give Chicago a better chance of obtaining use of the pick in 2016," according to The Vertical.
Gasol will likely be a rental if he's traded. The big man is expected to decline the $7.7 million player option on his deal for 2016-17 in order to hit free agency and take advantage of the increased salary cap.
One complication with the proposed deal is that the 76ers own the right to swap first-round picks with the Kings this year. Sacramento cannot complete the trade with Chicago involving the altered trade protections without first reaching an agreement with Philadelphia.
That may not be enough to stop the Kings, who appear to be getting a push from ownership to reach the playoffs amid a chaotic season. Rumors surrounding the status of head coach George Karl were persistent until the team released a statement recently. On Wednesday, Sacramento fired assistant coach Vance Walberg despite Karl's objections.
So the Kings certainly don't shy away from making aggressive decisions. Could their next one be to pull the trigger on a Gasol deal?
Why the Kings will acquire Gasol
Sacramento's ownership, which has never avoided meddling in the team's basketball decision-making, apparently wants to make the playoffs. After acquiring veterans like Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison, along with an experienced coach in Karl, this was supposed to be a winning season for the Kings. Instead, the team is 10th in the West with a 22-31 record and 4.5 games behind Utah for the final playoff spot.
That's not enough for a team with DeMarcus Cousins in his prime, so Sacramento wants to upgrade its frontcourt in order to make a run. Gasol, even at age 35, remains a very solid big man who can slide between roles as a scorer and facilitator while offering a respected voice in the locker room. The Bulls are four points better per 100 possessions with Gasol on the court, per NBA.com.
The Kings could use Gasol, and they're reportedly offering a pretty solid package to make it happen. McLemore is an intriguing former lottery pick. Koufos can eat some of Gasol's minutes for the rest of the season. And lowering the protections on the 2016 pick could be a major coup for the Bulls if it meant landing it this year. Assuming this deal is actually on the table, you have to imagine the Bulls will push to get it done, even if Gasol wants to stay in Chicago.
Why the Kings won't acquire Gasol
For all their love of making rash decisions, Sacramento surely knows that its not built to do any real damage in the West. The Warriors, Spurs and Thunder are just too good, so the Kings would be giving up assets in order to potentially get ousted early in the postseason. Maybe logic will eventually win out and the front office led by Vlade Divac will avoid such a shortsighted move.
It's also possible the Kings end up making a different deal. Sacramento has been involved in all sorts of trade rumors, from the availability of Gay to reported interest in Hawks wing Thabo Sefolosha. While other deals wouldn't necessarily preclude Sacramento from still acquiring Gasol -- or might even indicate doubling down on a win-now strategy -- it seems like the Kings have several plates spinning right now.
There's also a chance the Bulls decide to keep Gasol. He reportedly wants to stay in Chicago and sign a long-term extension, which is a possible concern for teams hoping to get the big man at his best over the final two-plus months of the season.
The Bulls seem likely to move Gasol before the trade deadline and the Kings are reportedly one of the top suitors for his services. While there are surely other teams trying to entice Chicago, an offer that would improve the Bulls' chances of getting Sacramento's first-round pick this year could be too much to pass up. We'll put the odds of a possible Gasol-to-Sacramento deal at 5/10.