With the NBA trade deadline a week away, Pau Gasol's time with the Lakers is becoming more and more tenuous.
Gasol's most likely destination is Houston, as the seven-foot Spaniard is reportedly warming to the idea of joining the Rockets, though there is no imminent deal in place. Any deal with the Rockets would almost certainly include Luis Scola, and either Kevin Martin or Kyle Lowry.
However, a new trade partner may have emerged as Atlanta's Josh Smith has asked the Hawks to trade him before the Mar. 15 deadline, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Smith is enjoying a strong season, as the power forward is averaging 17.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. According to the report, Smith is looking for a fresh start with a new club. He may see his chances of reaching the Finals dwindling as the East continues to be dominated by the Bulls and Heat, and while the Knicks have improved behind Jeremy Lin's emergence.
Though there are no reports of the Lakers showing interest in a deal for Smith, it's likely that general manager Mitch Kupchak gives a call to the Hawks, who should take Smith's request seriously.
Atlanta was looking to sign Smith to a contract extension next season, but those hopes might be dashed unless the 6'9 power forward decides to do a 180 on his trade request. In a sense, Smith is giving the Hawks a week to decide the future of their most promising front court player.
A straight-up swap of Gasol for Smith wouldn't work due to salary cap limitations, but the Lakers, who have shown interest in Kirk Hinrich, might consider adding Steve Blake with Gasol for Smith and Hinrich. In the process, the Lakers would trim some money off their bloated payroll, which has been a major priority for the club over the past several months, as they are over the luxury tax threshold at $87 million.
The Lakers would also add some youth, as Smith and Hinrich are both younger than Gasol and Blake. The swap of point guards may not make much of a difference, as Blake and Hinrich are both perimeter players who shoot under 40 percent from the field.
For the Hawks, they would be adding a veteran big man with championship rings on his resume. Despite a small dip in his numbers, Gasol is still having a very good season. He is averaging 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 3.3 assists in 2011-2012.
In the past three seasons, the Hawks have averaged 48 wins, but have failed to reach the Conference Finals. Though Smith has been a valuable part of the organization in those years, Atlanta may need a shake-up and Gasol might become the guy to advance the club further into the postseason.
Boston was reportedly interested in giving up Kevin Garnett for Smith last week, while the Hawks would include Hinrich to take his inflated contract off the books. Garnett is 35, and not nearly as effective as he was three years with injuries taking their toll, while Smith is a top power forward and in his prime.
The Hawks might also consider dangling Smith for Dwight Howard, an Atlanta native, but Howard continues to be coy on the idea of signing a contract extension.
Atlanta will explore more deals beyond the Lakers, Celtics, and Magic, but a move for Gasol is probably among the best deals out there.