As Los Angeles Lakers fandom giddily awaits the possible debut of Mike D’Antoni on the bench tonight and the emergence of the superteam most observers expected, the inevitable whispers are beginning: Yes, Pau Gasol appears to be on some imaginary trading blocks (and perhaps even the actual one) already.
As BallinEurope understands it, the thinking goes something like this: Pau has not performed brilliantly early on this season. He’s at his peak trade value. Literally the only tradable assets beyond Gasol are Metta World Peace and Steve Blake – unless taking a flyer on Chris Duhon or Earl Clark proves irresistible to someone. Dwight Howard should exploit a pick-and-roll game enough so that the Spaniard’s specialized skills aren’t missed too much. And hey, let’s face it, they’ve been trying to deal this guy for quite some time.
The spectre hanging over all this is that bugaboo that’s been haunting this team since last season’s underwhelming conclusion straight through to the acquisition of the big two: Depth. (A question for the first season of Miami’s Big Three as well, if BiE recalls correctly.) Looking at the ‘chart shows that the Lakers come down from Kobe Bryant to Jodie Meeks, from World Peace to Devin Ebanks. If we’re not including the prospectively departing Gasol, after Dwight comes the exciting Jordan Hill (with 5.7 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 1.3 PFs and 1.7 TOs in under 17 minutes per game, his is astoundingly the third-highest PER on the team), followed by
tumbleweeds Robert Sacre. Dude.
Trading Pau for a few pieces could make the difference between grabbing the banner and getting bounced from the playoffs from a sufficiently deeper (say, San Antonio) and/or more energetic (Oklahoma City) side.
BiE doesn’t necessarily endorse any of the arguments in favor of dealing Pau, particularly complaints about his performance – Critics cite his abysmal .425 shooting, a near-100 point drop from his career average, but he remains steady in all other statistical categories and has even increased his rebounding despite the Bynum-to-Howard upgrade – however, one must accept the inevitability of at least this sort of talk through the trade deadline.
After mostly futilely messing around with the ESPN Trade Machine, however, BiE has come to the conclusion that Pau may simply not be movable (depending on the whims of a certain nutty guy in New York, that is).
The rumormongers are centering first and foremost on disgruntled Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith. Smith’s $13 million contract is among the few that can even be entered into discussions regarding Pau’s $19 mil salary-cap crippler. But as much as Laker backers may crave a lockdown defensive guy who reportedly chummy with Howard, most sources indicate the Hawks have no interest in Gasol.
Before heading into three-team trades, BiE sought answers elsewhere. One intriguing possibility might be Pau to the Indiana Pacers. Moving Danny Granger, a forward with star-level skills who’s not a top dog, is seemingly perpetually within the collective consciousness online. With Larry Bird gone from the Pacers’ front office plus Granger’s injury woes this season, one can’t help think that the former University of New Mexico Lobo’s days are numbered. On the negative side, imagine the formulae poor Steve Nash would have to crunch to keep another shoot-first guy happy.
Again, though, a multiplayer deal is required to benefit the Lakers, so perhaps the Magic Buss could pry Tyler Hansbrough, in the last year of his deal, loose as well. With the backup power forward currently listed as 36-year-old Antawn Jamison, Los Angeles would certainly enjoy this bench upgrade – even if “Hollinger’s Analysis” reckons the Lakers lose three wins with this combination.
As much as BiE wanted to reunite Pau with Ricky on the Minnesota Timberwolves and get L.A. Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour and Chase Budinger (after Love and Rubio are back on their feet, natch), “This Trade Failed.” Damn, it’s going to be tough to move this $19 million…
So how about adding Derrick Williams, the slightly-less productive starting power forward? Nope.
Let’s see … Pau to Golden State for Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins works financially, but … no.
Similarly on the other side, there’s no way James Dolan could be Romanovesque enough to deal Amar’e Stoudamire, is there? You know he’s got to be considering unloading a costly three-year contract after seeing two whole weeks of what his team can do with him. Well, this straight-up deal works by the numbers, as does Amare-and-Kurt Thomas for Pau-and-Blake…
Gasol has been mentioned in connection with the Orlando Magic before, particularly when the Lakers were trying to pry Howard out of Florida before the aborted three-way swap of 2011. Orlando’s even got a couple of serious reasons to make a headline deal for a mobile big man: The crazy $11.8 million deal for the withering Hedo Turkoglu (who could possibly, believes the optimist, be just productive enough with old teammate Dwight) and Nikola Vucevic’s status as the only true center on the active roster.
Throwing in Glen Davis would make things worth the Lakers’ while, but if Orlando moves anyone, they’re much more likely to part with Josh McRoberts in the final year of his deal. Certainly not enough here.
BiE won’t go into the insane combinations crafted in three-way trades which are mathematically possible but are, let’s say in brief, silly. Suffice to say that throwing the Cleveland Cavaliers into a mix – and you’d have to think Cleveland in the mix in any deal that temporarily helps the Lakers in an anticipated finals clash with those still-hated Heat – makes just about any combination with Orlando and other teams possible, thanks to the $10.3 million-plus cap space. Safely assuming Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are out of any discussion, however, who could any team, especially the Lakers, use? Tristan Thompson? Omri Casspi, maybe?
You can bet that better minds than BiE’s are working on the possibilities daily in the Laker front office, but BiE believes, in the final analysis, that he’ll have to agree with Bleacher Report (shudder): Pau Gasol Isn’t Going Anywhere. Unless it’s New York.
But surely the prospect of a 15-10 guy as fourth option isn’t *that* bad, is it, Laker fans? If still fretting, take solace in the words of The Painted Area writer Mark Haubner: “Pau has a chance to play a devastating hybrid role, a la Boris Diaw in Phoenix in 2005-06, given Gasol’s similarly versatile abilities to drive, pass and make plays in the open court…”
And let’s give the Pau-to-anywhere rumors a rest for the season, okay? Unless you want Kobe calling you out…