Pau Gasol has made it really clear that he doesn't like his role on the Lakers this season. He doesn't get enough shots, and the shots he does get are long range. There are two problems for Pau staying in LA: Kobe takes a million shots and Andrew Bynum gets the majority of the Lakers' low-post touches. Pau is left playing facilitator at the elbow or the perimeter. And while the facilitator role has allowed Pau to get a lot of assists, he obviously doesn't follow the same mentality of Ricky Rubio (the classic Magic Johnson "an assist makes two guys happy" quote) toward passing. He wants the ball down low, and he's upset that his team isn't using him to the best of his ability - and after all, he is one of the best low post players in the NBA.
Rumors are swirling that Pau wants a trade to improve his situation. But the Lakers are in a very good spot with this possible development. If you read JA Adande's post on ESPN.com today (link here) he listed several problems with the Lakers so far this season:
- They haven't had enough time to mesh with their new teammates.
- They haven't had enough time to learn new coach Mike Brown's system.
- They have struggled to score when anyone besides Kobe has the ball.
- Their 3-point shooting is the worst in the league.
- They don't score a lot of fastbreak points.
- They're average.
- They're boring.
- They have inconsistent point guard play.
- They don't get easy shots from close range. This is mainly because...
- Nobody but Kobe has the ability to create their own shot.
- They don't get steals and thus don't get easy transition layups.
- They are old.
Woof. Where to start? Well the first two are impossible to solve without a Harry Potter Timeturner machine. But everything else is fixable, and now they have a major piece that they could move to fix it. It would appear as if they need someone (or a small group of players) that fits the following criteria:
- can shoot 3-pointers
- can create excitement
- can run the point (the steals thing kind of goes along with this)
- decreases the Lakers' average age of 28.3 (and they have 9 players over the age of 30)
That's easy enough, right? All we need is a list of trading partners. And who would want Pau Gasol? A team without a top-tier power forward. A team with a lot of depth at the 4, but a lack of talent in their starter. And, to meet the Lakers' needs, the team would have to have a good, young, exciting point guard that can create shots - but doesn't have to (because, you know, Kobe). The Lakers aren't going to deal Pau unless the trade puts them in a better place than they currently are. They, like the Yankees, are a franchise that simply doesn't tolerate NOT competing for a title every season. There are no "rebuilding years" for the Lakers - they charge too much for tickets to put a bad team on the court.
The trade partner, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily need to benefit from the trade right now. Although Pau is no spring chicken (age 31), he still has more than a few years left in his prime. He could be the piece that puts a mostly rebuilt team over the top (like he would have done in Houston, had that trade not been rejected by
the Adolf Hitler of the NBA David Stern.
Let's revisit that trade with a few minor tweaks to make it a two-teamer:
Lakers receive: Luis Scola, PF & Kyle Lowry, PG
Rockets receive: Pau Gasol, PG & LAL's 2012 First-round Pick & Dallas' 2012 First-round Pick
A major upgrade for LA at point guard in Kyle Lowry. He's been stellar this season (16.5 points, 8.7 assists) and only a minor downgrade at power forward when you consider Scola's critics this season have been calling him "soft." Pair him with Bynum. arguably the least soft player in the league and maybe Scola doesn't have to be so "hard." Their starting five would be Lowry - Bryant - Barnes - Scola - Bynum with World Peace, Derek Fisher, and the white guys off the bench. Boom. Contenders again.
For Houston, they get Pau - who they showed enough interest in to trade for earlier this year. Their starting lineup would be Jonny Flynn - Kevin Martin - Chandler Parsons - Gasol - Samuel Dalembert. They'll look to Flynn and Goran Dragic to pick up Lowry's production, Martin to continue being a stud, and Gasol to pair with Dalembert for a solid down-low presence. They'll also have a ton of picks in next year's draft:
- their own first round pick (top-14 protected)
- New York's first round pick (top-5 protected)
- Los Angeles' first round pick (terms could be negotiated to protect it, but with LA's haul in this trade it won't matter)
- Dallas' first round pick (top-20 protected)
- Minnesota's second round pick (only if it is 31-55)
I'd call that an ideal situation in a draft that's going to feature Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeremy Lamb. Throw in the youth of the Rockets after the trade (average age: 24.9 with only Gasol and Dalembert in their 30's) and that is a team that is going to be a good team for years to come. And they play in the same division as the aging Spurs and currently-don't-have-an-identity Mavericks. They would compete with the Grizzlies for the division title until the Hornets figure their shit out - which could end up being never.
So I'll ask you guys the question that I use to verify potential trades: which team says no?