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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: Is Pau Gasol Safe Now?

Jason O. Watson – USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers can use their amnesty clause on Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace or Pau Gasol.

Before Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets on Friday night, Gasol was the most economically sensible choice if an amnesty decision had to be made. However, even with the empty salary space that comes with Howard leaving, is Gasol still the most logical amnesty choice? Or, is he finally in the clear as far as trade and amnesty talks go?

Bryant’s Instagram photo of him and Gasol in response to the Rockets announcement, makes it seem that Gasol’s in now that Howard’s out. Bryant’s always been a supporter of Gasol and while many took the picture as a message to Howard, it could have also been a message to someone else…

Gasol averaged 13.7 points, 2.1 turnovers, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game last season. This performance isn’t exactly what is expected out of a max contract type player, but Mike D’Antoni wasn’t keen on making sure that Gasol was in the optimal situations to play well. Regardless, in his last two seasons, Gasol has played 65 and 42 games, respectively, because he has dealt with constant injury problems.

Earl Clark ended up being the more beneficial player to come out of Howard’s Orlando trade last summer. He averaged averaging 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes. However, Clark has reportedly signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Lakers allowed Clark walk out the door. Gasol and Jordan Hill are pretty much the cement of the frontcourt. Rookie Ryan Kelly is a second-round pick, so he will see the floor sparingly, at best. With such a small number of centers and power forwards available to Lakers, Gasol is now the more natural fit for the center position.

The Lakers have to rebuild without the league’s top center, but the team’s roster needs conflict with the need to avoid harsh luxury tax penalties. With over $19 million owned to him, Gasol is still the best choice for a trade or amnesty with other free agents – Elton Brand, for example — still unsigned, but only if he stays in the forward position. If the Lakers decide to slide Gasol into the center position like brother Marc Gasol, he’s more valuable and thus, worth the money.