Throughout the young NBA season, the Lakers have been one of the most talked about teams in basketball, but for all the wrong reasons. Most of us assumed that by this time, the Lakers would be sitting atop the standings, flourishing with their revamped roster, and bringing show time back to Los Angeles.
Unexpectedly, whether it be the coaching change or the rash of injuries they have sustained to their point guard spot, the Lakers really haven’t had a chance to develop any chemistry and show their capabilities. As a result, they currently reside on the outside of the playoff picture looking in with a meager 9-12 record.
As we’ve seen over the years, when the Lakers are struggling, there is always a scapegoat. But who to blame? Nash can’t be blamed for it, he’s only played in one and a half games this year due to a non-displaced leg fracture. Howard can’t be blamed, he just got to LA and the Lakers can’t allow anything to deter him from re-signing with the team in the summer. And there is no way that Kobe can be held accountable for this, he is having a renaissance year and is playing arguably the most efficient basketball of his career.
So naturally, the blame falls on the same shoulders it has ever since the Lakers were ousted in the second round of the playoffs two years ago by the Dallas Mavericks, and those shoulders belong to Pau Gasol. With that, here are the five rumored Pau Gasol trade scenarios, ranked from least to most helpful for the Lakers:
5. Pau Gasol for Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams
The Minnesota Timberwolves General Manager, David Kahn, has been intrigued at the prospect of trading for Pau Gasol ever since it was clear he was available for the right price after the Lakers’ vetoed Chris Paul trade. However, the Timberwolves didn’t have the right pieces to trade last year and still don’t this year.
While this trade would be great for the Timberwolves, the Lakers would be utterly insane to even consider it. In this trade, the Timberwolves would be able to create possibly the most talented 4-5 duo in the NBA as well as reuniting Pau Gasol with his Spanish Olympic Teammate, Ricky Rubio. In return, what would the Lakers receive? Not a whole lot. Although Derrick Williams is only in his second year, the former number-two overall pick hasn’t lived up to expectations so far, and is considered as somewhat of a bust. While he is a decent scoring option off the bench (averages 9.0 ppg while making 38% of his 3pt attempts), that’s all he is, decent.
Nikola Pekovic is really the player that makes this trade so one-sided. I’m not saying Pekovic is a bad player, but as the centerpiece of this trade for the Lakers, he just isn’t the right fit for the Lakers.
Pekovic plays the Center position just like Dwight Howard, and just like Howard, Pekovic cannot shoot outside of 10 feet. If the Lakers ever put Pekovic on the floor at the same time as Howard, there would be no spacing. Whenever the ball went inside to Howard, the opposition would send another defender down to double, knowing full well that Pekovic is not a threat to score from outside the paint. So why trade Gasol for a big that you could only play around 10 minutes a night? Also, this trade would take Jordan Hill, another big with limited range, completely out of the rotation. Unless the Timberwolves are offering Kevin Love, the Lakers shouldn’t even bother listening to any of their trade offers.
4. Pau Gasol for Amar’e Stoudemire
The rumor of a Pau Gasol for Amar’e Stoudemire swap has been around ever since the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni as their head coach. After all, it only makes sense that the Lakers would want to reunite Stoudemire with his former coach and MVP point guard after they had such huge offensive success with the Phoenix Suns, right? Not so fast.
While the Knicks would love to get rid of Stoudemire’s remaining three-year, $60-plus million contract and pair Gasol with Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers should think twice before swapping big men with the Knicks. One of the concerns regarding both bigs is their knees. Stoudemire’s knee troubles have been going on for the majority of his career. Meanwhile, Gasol’s knee tendinitis only started giving him problems a few months ago and the concern over his knees aren’t nearly as worrisome as Stoudemire’s.
Neither Gasol nor Stoudemire will ever be mistaken as defensive specialists, but Gasol does hold an edge on that side of the court. On top of that, Gasol also is a much better passer, slightly better rebounder, and doesn’t have the same shoot-first, pass-second mentality as Stoudemire.
Although Stoudemire does have more range on his jump shot than Gasol, the Lakers need a power forward that can stretch the floor and hit open threes consistently, giving Howard the space he needs to dominate in the paint, something that neither of these bigs are capable of. Just because Stoudemire is familiar and had success with D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix, doesn’t mean he will have success with it again in LA, especially when he struggles to stay healthy and wouldn’t be the team’s number one scoring option. Couple that with the fact that he has a mind-boggling amount of money owed to him over the next three years, and a Gasol for Stoudemire trade isn’t as appeasing as it might appear at first thought.
3. Pau Gasol for Josh Smith
Over the off-season, the Atlanta Hawks reportedly offered the Lakers a one-for-one swap of Pau Gasol for Josh Smith. The Lakers weren’t so keen on the idea and requested another veteran player to go along with Josh Smith. The Hawks rejected the counteroffer and the talks between the two teams stopped there.
Since then, the Lakers have had a tumultuous start to their season and many people have begun clamoring for the Lakers to re-engage the Hawks in trade talks centering around Pau Gasol and Josh Smith. However, something that has seemingly gone under the radar is that the Hawks have hired a new general manager since they dangled Josh Smith in June. Danny Ferry, the new GM, isn’t as interested in Gasol as the Hawks old GM was, and for good reason.
The Hawks demonstrated in July that they are in rebuilding mode when they traded Joe Johnson and his max contract to the Brooklyn Nets for a bunch of expiring contracts. So why, if the Hawks are rebuilding, would they trade Josh Smith, who just turned 27-years-old on December 5, for a 32-year-old Pau Gasol whose skills and productivity have started to diminish?
The argument for why the Hawks would do this is so they have assurance that they don’t lose Josh Smith for nothing if he decides to leave Atlanta for another team in free agency this coming off-season. In reality, the Hawks really shouldn’t be too concerned about losing Smith. They are able to offer Smith over $30 million more than any other team in the NBA when they try to sway him to stay because they have his bird-rights. Add that to the fact that we have yet to see any superstar turn down a max contract from their current team since the new collective bargaining agreement was instituted, and the Hawks can rest-assured Josh Smith likely isn’t going anywhere. If by some small chance Smith does elect to leave and the Hawks worst fears do come to fruition, they would be much better off with an exorbitant amount of cap room rather than Gasol and his gargantuan contract.
At first, this looks like a great trade for the Lakers. Why wouldn’t they want to trade a struggling forward with bad knees on the wrong side of thirty for a relatively young combo-forward who seemingly still hasn’t reached his ceiling? If the Lakers were to trade for Josh Smith, all the problems that Gasol presented would still be there with Smith. Only now they would be amplified.
One of the knocks on Gasol and why he doesn’t mesh well with Dwight Howard is that he doesn’t have a consistent enough mid-range jump shot. Yet somehow, the fact that Josh Smith is a worse jump shooter and attempts quite a few more jump shots per game than Gasol has gone unnoticed. Smith also doesn’t have the same passing abilities as Gasol. Along with all of this, Smith is another player that struggles at the charity stripe.
The Lakers are already the worst free throw shooting team in the league. They don’t need another poor free throw shooter playing big minutes, bringing down their percentage even more and losing even more games because of it. If Smith was on the court with Howard down the stretch of a close game, the Lakers would essentially be giving opponents a choice. Foul Howard and watch him miss, or foul Smith and watch him miss. You can argue that the Lakers would be better off in the future with Smith, and I agree, but the Lakers aren’t building for the future, they’re built to win now. And right now, the Lakers are better off keeping Pau Gasol instead of trading for Josh Smith.
2. Pau Gasol for Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Linas Kleiza
This is the trade that makes the most sense for both teams involved. It was reported earlier this week by Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com that the Toronto Raptors offered Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Linas Kleiza for Pau Gasol. The Lakers in turn rejected the offer, saying they would not consider any trade proposals until they can fully asses their team when Steve Nash comes back from injury. While there is a better possible option for the Lakers, they would be wise to continue talking to the Raptors and keep them interested.
In this trade, the Raptors would get a low-post presence and form a nice complimentary duo with DeMar DeRozan, capable of contending for a playoff spot in a top-heavy Eastern Conference. Adding Gasol would give Toronto a player that knows what it takes to win and would also be a great mentor for the Raptors’ promising, young prospect, Jonas Valanciunas.
As for the Lakers, they would be grabbing a nice haul in exchange for their multi-faceted big-man. Andrea Bargnani would fill in nicely for Pau Gasol at the Power Forward spot. He is a seven-footer just like Gasol, however, he has a much different set of offensive skills. Bargnani fits in almost perfectly with what the Lakers idealistically want to do on offense. He is another seven-footer they can stick on the court with Dwight Howard and rely on him to hit jump shots from anywhere on the court, including three point land.
While he doesn’t rebound at the same rate as Gasol, he would definitely see an increase in his rebounding if he were to don a Laker uniform. With so much attention being paid to Dwight Howard on the glass, Bargnani could easily snatch an extra two or three rebounds per game. However, he does have one quality in common with Pau Gasol, and that is a lack of toughness. Just like Gasol, Bargnani seems to be allergic to any type of physicality whatsoever.
Jose Calderon is another solid player for the Lakers in this trade. He is a HUGE upgrade from Steve Blake for the back-up point guard position as he averages around ten points and seven assists on 46% 3pt and 93% FT on the season. Calderon also has a high basketball IQ, which helps him make smart passes and keep calm under pressure.
The last player in this deal, Linas Kleiza, is really just a throw-in. He does bring a veteran presence to the team, but that’s about all he can contribute to the Lakers. Overall, this trade is very enticing to say the least, and if the Lakers aren’t able to finagle a deal for Ryan Anderson, the Lakers should definitely look to make this trade a reality.
1. Pau Gasol for Ryan Anderson
Due to a provision in the new CBA, Ryan Anderson is not eligible to be traded until December 15 because he was acquired by the New Orleans Hornets via sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic. However, that hasn’t stopped the Lakers from thinking up different scenarios in which they could land the sharpshooting 24 year-old once he becomes available to trade. Reports have surfaced over the last few weeks that the Lakers number one player of choice if they do eventually decide to trade Gasol is Ryan Anderson.
And why wouldn’t he be? He is off to a great start this year, proving that last year wasn’t a fluke. He’s improved his numbers even more this year to a tune of 18.4 ppg and 7.5 rpg on 48% shooting from the field and 88% from the free throw line. He also is a sublime stretch 4 as he shoots 45% from behind the arc which makes him a perfect compliment to Dwight Howard’s physical, in the paint style of play.
In fact, last year while Howard took the fans and management of the Orlando Magic on an emotional roller coaster, he quietly posted some of the best offensive numbers of his career. Averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. The starting power forward on the Magic last season? None other than Ryan Anderson, who averaged numbers similar to what he is averaging so far this year.
So Howard and Anderson have already played with each other before and have proven that they compliment each others’ games flawlessly. Ryan Anderson spaces the floor well and doesn’t allow teams to double Howard off of him, and Howard takes attention away from Anderson’s shooting abilities and presents him with numerous open looks around the court.
The Hornets are a very young team, with only one player over 30 on their roster. So a straight-up trade of Pau Gasol for Ryan Anderson probably wouldn’t be enough to pry Anderson away. Look for rumors surrounding Anderson and the Lakers to heat up once Anderson is eligible to be traded, especially if the Lakers continue to struggle. The Lakers will more than likely bring in a third team that has interest in Gasol, such as the Timberwolves, to help facilitate this trade.
Whatever team this is, they must be able to offer the Hornets some quality, young prospects including a center so the Hornets can move their number-one overall pick, Anthony Davis, back to his natural power forward spot.
While the Lakers would benefit from a Gasol for Bargnani and Calderon swap, a trade for Ryan Anderson would be a match made in heaven for the Lakers, and they must exhaust all available avenues to get a deal done.