After being eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks, major changes could be on the horizon for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pau Gasol may be on the trading block now that the Lakers have been eliminated.
The All-Star big man has been a key player in the Lakers' three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and remains one of the best power forwards in the league.
But with some dissension brewing among the Lakers following the sweep to the Mavericks, and with the possibility of the Orlando Magic reopening trade talks with Los Angeles about a swap of Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum, Gasol may have played his last game with the Lakers.
Throughout the season, Gasol was subjected to more criticism that he isn't tough enough. Meanwhile, the Lakers are in desperate need of a point guard with the probable departure of Derek Fisher and the ineffectiveness of Steve Blake.
A point guard whose name is being floated around is Chris Paul.
The Hornets star is being courted by the New York Knicks, among several other teams. But a trade between the Lakers and New Orleans isn't far fetched given the circumstances.
The main reason the trade has a chance, is that Paul might force this to happen. Paul wants out of New Orleans, and there may not be a better offer on the table for New Orleans than Gasol. The Lakers might be the favored destination for the talented point guard who has never gone deep into the NBA playoffs.
Gasol and Paul have similar salaries, meaning the Lakers and Hornets wouldn't need a third team to step in. This would be a simple trade, and doesn't need to drag out like the Carmelo Anthony deal this past winter.
Also, a Paul-for-Gasol trade could happen simply because Gasol might become expendable should the Lakers agree to trading Bynum for Howard, a legitimate rumor during the season, that will likely be revisited this off-season. The Magic were strongly interested in Bynum as hopes of retaining Howard became dim.
The Magic don't want to lose Howard for nothing, so trade talks opened, though none were serious with both the Lakers and Magic had a playoff run on their minds. Should a Bynum-Howard trade go through, it would increase the chances of the Lakers acquiring Paul.
Howard is a big presence, and playing next to Gasol might cause chemistry problems. The Lakers might immediately put Gasol on the block once they acquire Howard, and the key player they'd want in return for the Spaniard would likely be a point guard.
Adding Paul would be ideal for the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Hornets would land a big man instead of a collection of complimentary players, like the Knicks would be offering.
This could all be a stretch. Gasol has been a valued member of the Lakers, and one poor playoff run should not necessarily create trade rumors. Quality big men are a commodity in the NBA, and the Lakers know it.
Los Angeles will have reason to remake the roster, but could also stand pat with their starting line-up, and just fix the smaller holes on the team instead.
A Howard-for-Bynum trade may also not happen despite signs that both the Lakers and Magic discussed it in the regular season, and would likely revisit based on the Lakers current circumstances.
Jim Buss, son of owner Jerry Buss, and an influential part of the organization, reportedly balked at rumors that Bynum was leaving when sources claimed that a deal for Howard was a possibility.
Meanwhile, Paul seems destined to bolt from New Orleans, but the Hornets will be entertaining many offers, and not just from the Lakers. There will be no shortage of suitors for a star guard like Paul.
A hold up to the potential trade is that the Lakers and Hornets play in the same conference. When the Grizzlies traded within their conference and sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008, there was an outcry from the likes of San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich. Paul to the Lakers may spawn more objections from teams, and kill the deal.
Los Angeles may want Paul, but by no means should they feel that New Orleans is willing to ship out their franchise player for a 31-year-old big man, even if it's the best deal available.
What is certain, is Howard and Paul want out, and the Lakers have their eye on making changes.