I appreciate Pau Gasol as a player and a person. I really do – and so do the Lakers. But, if he continues to struggle once he and Nash have had some time as a tandem, the Lakers are rumored to be prepared to trade him.
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What would they want in a Gasol trade? An athletic forward and bench help, according to that Yahoo! Sports report.
The first name that jumps to mind is obviously Josh Smith, but there is a growing confidence in Atlanta that Smith will re-sign with them this summer once his contract expires. Whether he is definitely in the new general manager’s plans is unknown, though Danny Ferry would be wise to hang onto a young star such as Smith if that star is willing to go through the rebuilding process.
So, after J-Smoove is out of the way, who else is out there to trade for Pau? Two teams who have been linked with the Lakers in recent weeks (and years, for one of them) are the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves.
While Torotno’s reported offering of Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza would help the bench, Andrea Bagnani doesn’t exactly fit the “athletic forward” label. Sure, he can shoot, but he’s not a fast, high-flying player.
However, Minnesota’s Derrick Williams is. Williams is a 6’8″ forward, weighing in at 241 pounds. In college, he played power forward, though up to now in the NBA, the former second overall pick has been played more at the small forward by Minnesota’s head coach, Rick Adelman – that’s when he actually does play – and that’s pretty much down to the fact that he’s on the same team as Kevin Love.
He’s also not an Adelman-type of player – while Gasol is – and so his court time is usually limited. Although, even in his rookie year he showed glimpses of what he can do. Check out video of him below, when he dropped 27 points on the Clippers on 9-for-10 shooting:
You can see it. He’s a D’Antoni player. He can shoot from range and he can run the floor. He could flourish in Los Angeles. It’s no secret that Williams is unhappy in Minnesota – and the Wolves have reportedly offered him to the Lakers multiple times – so there could be something there.
So, there’s the athletic forward the Lakers would want in a Pau deal, but where’s the bench help? That’s where Toronto come into play. The Lakers have long coveted the services of Jose Calderon, but either the Raptors haven’t wanted to move him or the Lakers haven’t been able to take on his large salary.
Now could be the perfect time for both parties to make a move.
The Timberwolves would have to trade more than just Williams to get Gasol. According to ESPN, their recent offer was Williams and up-and-coming center, Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves like his game, but he’s going to want a big contract this coming summer and there’s whispers that Minny don’t want to commit that many dollars to him – and if they’re getting Pau, Gasol is going to be starting at center anyway.
The Lakers have no need for him either as they have Dwight Howard. However, would Toronto be interested? Pekovic would give them a legit center, meaning they could move Bargnani to the power forward position where he would probably be more comfortable.
Toronto are looking to move Calderon – and if they don’t his deal will just expire this off-season, so they could lose him for nothing – therefore, picking up the 26-year-old Pekovic could interest them.
Would the Wolves and Raptors also send Chase Budinger and Ed Davis to the Lakers to fill that “bench help” need? I don’t think it’s out of the question on Minnesota’s part, seeing as they long to pair Gasol with Rubio, though the Raptors may resist. If not, here’s how a possible trade could look:
Pau Gasol and fillers (in order to receive 4 players back)
Derrick Williams, Jose Calderon, Chase Budinger and Ed Davis
Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Luke Ridnour
Jose Calderon, Ed Davis
Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour
WHY THE TIMBERWOLVES DO IT
They finally get their hands on Pau Gasol. They move Williams – who is on the trade block – and they also dodge having to give Pekovic a big pay day. Instead, they can slide Pau back to the center position – where he’s most comfortable – and allow Love to space the floor at the power forward spot.
They may be reluctant to part with Budinger, but he too will want paying in the off-season to some extent as his deal expires this summer. They’d probably bite the bullet and move him to finally get their hands on Gasol.
WHY THE RAPTORS DO IT
They want to move Calderon. They also want to move Bargnani, but his injuries, poor performance and contract will make that tough. Why not trade away the unhappy Calderon and bring in a promising young center in Pekovic? Bargs will prefer the game away from the basket and perhaps find a return to form.
They may hold out on moving a guy like Ed Davis, as he’s still young and has shown signs of being a promising player, but that all depends on how badly they want to move Calderon and how much they want a starting caliber center.
Also, they get a serviceable point guard back in Luke Ridnour, who could easily take care of backing up Kyle Lowry.
WHY THE LAKERS DO IT
They get their athletic forward in Williams and bench help in Calderon, Budinger and Davis. At just 21-years-old, Williams has lots of untapped potential. Furthermore, he still has a low-salary rookie contract and he has a “team option” for 2014 – the year of the big free agent class. Even if they take up the option, he’ll still only make $6,331,404 in the 2014-15 season.
The Lakers would finally get their hands on Calderon, who could take a great deal of the strain from Steve Nash and allow his 38-year-old body to stay fresh for the playoffs (yes, we are going to make the playoffs).
Jose is a starting caliber point guard who can shoot the three and is one of the best playmakers in the world, so having him on the bench as Nash’s back-up would be devastating for opponents. Calderon is also an expiring contract, meaning the Lakers would have $10.6 million come off their books this summer.
Budinger and Davis are both young players at 24 and 23, respectively. While Davis probably wouldn’t get a great deal of minutes right now with Hill and Jamison on the team, he could be a project for future years – plus he’s only owed around $5 million over the next couple of seasons.
Budinger, however, could contribute straight away off the bench at the small forward spot. He can shoot the ball from range and attack the rim. He’s also an expiring contract this summer, so the Lakers could evaluate him to see if they want to bring him back or let him walk.
Aside from the talent that the Lakers receive in this deal, the money side of things would probably interest them too. Why? Because in 2014, they could owe absolutely nothing to these four players if they chose not to take up their options or re-sign them, meaning they’d be able to potentially chase big names such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and John Wall.
If the Lakers went down different routes, they could set themselves up to miss out on this rich class of free agents.
For example, if they made a move for Josh Smith, they’d have to re-sign him in the off-season to a max deal, basically eliminating their chances of having cap room in ’14. If they traded for Bargnani, they’d have to hope and pray that he doesn’t take up his $12 million player option in the summer of 2014.
This deal would give them the opportunity to have a more Mike D’Antoni-like roster, with shooters, youth and athleticism to put around Dwight. Calderon would also give Nash lots of rest on the bench, while the team keep their options open for that big free agent class that they’re obviously targeting.
Of course, Pau Gasol could discover a return to form once he plays with Nash, but if he doesn’t, this deal is just one of the many options the Lakers could possibly explore.