Does a Paul Pierce for Pau Gasol trade make sense for both teams?

It's the trade rumor that just won't die. The Celtics shipping their captain, Paul Pierce home to LA to play for his boyhood team in the Lakers, and in exchange picking up the immensely skilled Pau Gasol.

We heard it last summer from ESPN's Ric Bucher, who wondered aloud whether both teams would be improve in the swap.

We heard it at the deadline this year as well, only in this rumor (from ESPN's Marc Stein) it was a three-way deal with Memphis that would have sent Gasol to Boston, Pierce to Memphis, and Rudy Gay to LA.

In both cases, the deals never got done, with Pierce and Gasol staying put on their respective coasts.

However, with both teams coming off disappointing seasons, don't be surprised to hear the rumor mill start to churn again.

Bob Finnan, who covers the NBA as a Cavs beat writer, had this to say about the Gasol situation over the weekend.

The Lakers' cap situation is atrocious. Don't be shocked if they trade forward/center Pau Gasol, who is recovering from a knee procedure and needs another 10 weeks of rehabilitation. The 7-footer is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $19.28 million next year. The Cavs might be open to a deal like that, adding a veteran player to the group of youngsters on the roster. Another name could be Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

Only $5 million of Pierce's $15.33 million salary is guaranteed next season. Many think Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will shop him up to June 30. Pierce's salary protection for 2013-14 kicks in if he's on the roster as of July 1. The two sides are allowed under league rules to push back that date. Pierce has been a loyal employee his entire career, but it might be time to move on.

Finnan isn't saying that the teams are talking, but like many writers before him, he makes the connection between the two, and it's not hard to see why. After all, it's basically the perfect storm of NBA rumors. You have two high profile teams swapping perennial all-stars, Gasol joining forces with KG, Pierce joining forces with Kobe, and an all-time great Celtic returning home to finish his career with the Lakers.

But while the rumor is certainly juicy, does it really make basketball sense? After thinking about it for a while, it certainly does for one team, but the other? Not so much. Let's take a closer look.

Does the deal make sense for the Lakers?

Financially: Yes. The Lakers would be swapping $18.7 million in salary for Gasol, for Pierce's $15.3 million cap hit. Considering the Lakers figure to be about $30 million over the NBA's luxury tax, and next year's "repeater penalty", that $3.4 million in savings would likely save the team near $12 million in tax expenses. With Pierce in tow, the team could then use their amnesty provision on Metta World Peace, and get their salary cap number closer to the $90-95 million range, rather than the $100-105 million it stands to be if the team keeps it's roster the way it is. With the repeater tax, that $10 million is closer to $30-40 million in savings. While the Lakers have a huge TV deal, that's not chump change.

Roster wise: Yes. If the Lakers are going to retain Dwight Howard, the team would have a far bigger
C's fans would be nauseous if these two joined forces
need at the wing than it would down low. Pierce represents a huge upgrade over MWP, and most importantly, could help pick up the scoring load while Kobe recovers from achilles surgery. Of course, Pierce alone doesn't single handedly turn LA from the #7 seed out West into a championship contender, but he would help them next year and after the season, his contract would expire and the team could either bring him back for short money or let him walk. Pierce is also a better bet to stay healthy than Gasol, who's recent knee procedure is going to keep him off the basketball floor until late summer. If the Lakers are going to do anything next year, they need all hands on deck, and Pierce's ability to stay healthy would help in that area.

Emotionally: Yes again. LA deals Gasol, who has never been fully embraced by Lakers fans, and in exchange they bring in the home town kid. Pierce jerseys would fly off the shelf, and at the very least LA would become a very popular 5 or 6 seed, rather than an unlikable 7 or 8 seed. Considering the deal does no long term damage to the team, this alone may be enough to convince LA to want to get it done.

Final word: The Lakers save a ton of money, and bring in someone who can help take the scoring load off of Kobe. Oh yea, and he's from LA. The Lake show are facing a horrendous off-season, and this deal would help brighten it quite a bit, even if they won't become title favorites with Pierce in tow. This deal helps LA.

Does this deal make sense for the Celtics?

Financially: No, it doesn't kill them, but it would put a dent in Wyc's wallet. Boston is currently floating around $73.1 million in salary for next season, so adding $3.4 million in salary with Gasol brings them up to about $76.5. Throw in draft picks and minimum salary guys, and it would be tough to stay below $80 million. Projecting the luxury tax to about $72 million, Boston would pay about $12.75 million in taxes if they end up with $80 million in salary. If Gasol was enough to lift them into championship contender status, the deal would be worth it. But he's not.

Roster wise: It actually does make some sense. As of right now, 2 of the Celtics 4 best players (Pierce
Would Gasol make the Celtics a more balanced team?
and Jeff Green) play the same position. If Green is truly ready to take on a bigger role, dealing Pierce for Gasol is fairly intriguing in terms of roster balance. Rondo-Bradley-Green-Gasol-Garnett would give the C's multiple different ways to beat a team. They'd have Rondo, Bradley and Green, young and athletic players able to run the fast break, and then Gasol and Garnett to run their offense through in the half court. Green's ability to create his own shot would help ease the pain of losing Pierce as well. Long term, the deal does nothing for Boston (unless LA throws in a draft pick in order to facilitate the deal and save money), but for next year, I think the team gets better. Of course there are two potential issues, 1. being Gasol's aforementioned poor knees, and 2. Whether or not KG decided to retire once Pierce is dealt. Boston would need both a healthy Gasol and Garnett for the deal to make a tangible difference.

Emotionally: I'm not a huge believer in letting emotions play a role in decision making when it comes to sports, and I'm on record as saying I'd deal Pierce and/or Garnett in the right deal, meaning the C's either acquire assets, or create cap space. However, the backlash from this deal would be immense. Pierce is a 15 year Celtic, and sending him to the teams arch-rival, for the 'Big Llama' would destroy the fan base. While C's fans would love to see Pierce return, I think many would be ok with him leaving if he went to a team like the Clippers, where there is no rivalry between the teams, and where Pierce would have a chance to win another title. But seeing Pierce in purple and gold would be different. It would break fans hearts, and cause legitimate anger. Danny Ainge has balls, but does he have brass balls the size of cantaloupes? Because that's what this would take.

Final word: The Celtics can't do this deal. Sure if Gasol's healthy and KG buys in, they may win a few more games next year. But at what price? The team would pay a big price in terms of cash because of the repeater penalty, and a far bigger price in terms of alienating their fan base. It's not a good idea to think with your heart in sports, but it's also not a good idea to completely ignore it.

It may in fact be time to part ways with The Truth, but not in this deal.

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