Gasol is a far more skilled offensive player than Howard, but stationing him at the arc while leaving Howard – a substandard shooter and passer – at the elbow doesn’t work. When Gasol is on the floor, he can play at the elbow with Nowitzki on the arc. When Gasol is off the floor, Nowitzki can move to the arc, where he can play pick-and-roll with Nash. And with Bryant still in the picture, Nowitzki won’t have to carry the piano as much as he does in Dallas.
The salaries match almost perfectly, so the Mavericks maintain their cap flexibility while rebuilding around a 27-year-old conventional center instead of a fading freak of nature who turns 35 in June. And Nowitzki’s deal expires in 2014 along with those of Bryant and Gasol, keeping the Lakers’ reloading plans in place for a summer when Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe could be on the market.
The primary hang-up is Nowitzki’s no-trade clause and the strength of his attachment to Dallas. Being reunited with a great personal friend in Nash could remove some of that sting – and extend his career a year or two.
2. Pacers trade Danny Granger to Hornets for Eric Gordon
After a sputtering start, the Pacers are 28-14 without Granger, their supposed franchise player who has yet to play this season. In his absence, Indiana discovered it has a virtual clone of Granger in Paul George, except for the fact that George is younger and a better passer, rebounder and defender.
After getting Miami’s undivided attention in last year’s conference semifinals, the Pacers are 2-0 against the Heat this season, pushing around the champs like the schoolyard bully. But the postseason exposes warts, and Indiana’s biggest wart is its lack of a truly dangerous shooting guard.
Gordon fits the bill on many levels, not the least of which he is from Indiana. The Pacers were interested in him last summer but knew that pursuit of him as a restricted free agent would prove fruitless. They also were tied up with their own free agency issues, trying to re-sign Roy Hibbert and George Hill.
Gordon has made it abundantly clear that he does not like New Orleans. He was upset when the Hornets matched the offer sheet from Phoenix last summer, and some have insinuated that his injuries over the last two seasons would have required less rehab time in another city. If that is not true, then the Pacers have some due diligence on their hands.
This is another deal where the salaries match almost seamlessly. And it also benefits the Hornets, who exchange an unhappy player for an All-Star who solidifies their troublesome small forward slot. The trade would also help the Hornets find out whether or not Austin Rivers really is a bust. And if he is, New Orleans has a ton of cap room this summer and a lottery pick in a draft with a handful of top shooting guard prospects.
3. Clippers trade Eric Bledsoe and spare parts to Jazz for Paul Millsap
This deal is nowhere near as simple as the previous two. Bledsoe is still on his rookie contract and is making $1.7 million while Millsap is an impending free agent making $7.2 million, so some creativity is required.
Without engaging a third team under the cap or with a trade exception, the Clippers could package Bledsoe with Willie Green ($1.375 million) and Grant Hill ($1.957 million), use the 150 percent window and get to just under $7.4 million.
Before the deal could be done, the Jazz would have to waive two players. Or they could add Kevin Murphy to the trade and waive just one player – like Raja Bell, who hasn’t played this season.