Written by: Ryan Branning
The thought of breaking up the core of a back to back championship squad seems like a bit of a drastic, perhaps even desperate move. Especially when you listen to the similarity of opinions coming from the players during the exit interview process. Most of the key components on the team mentioned that they would be more than happy to come back next year and make another run with the current roster intact. And most if not all could agree that they are confident in being able to accomplish the goal of winning another trophy together.
Now whether or not they are saving face or simply stating the obvious positive outlook makes no difference to me. At times you have to take what is said in front of the media with a grain of salt. But in the exit interviews I feel that the interaction is somewhat different, more genuine, raw, down to earth.
Having said that I have no reason not to believe the players and what was said, and the confidence exuded in the final media interaction of the season. I tend to side with the players in this regard, I feel that no major moves need to be made to remain competitive at a championship level, especially when the remedy may simply be rest and refocus. Aside from a few adjustments at the PG and back up C position, along with a few developing younger prospects, I don’t feel the Lakers need to make any huge splashes.
There have been numerous trade rumors circulating over the past few weeks, but one stands out to me more than the rest.
Personally, I am not sure how confident I am in moving Pau Gasol. Players of his intelligence, size, and skill level just don’t come along that often. The argument can be made that he is one of the best big men in the game. And truthfully, you can say that the Lakers would not have been as successful as they have been in the past few seasons without his presence.
Although Kevin Love brings more of a focused emphasis on rebounding along with more youthful energy, I don’t think he is as potent of an offensive threat as Pau, at least not yet. And on top of that, Pau’s passing ability makes him one of, if not the best big in the game at making the correct decision inside the paint.
But if the new coaching staff chooses to move away from the Triangle as the primary source of offensive production Pau’s value could be slightly diminished. Pau has also made a bad habit of placing emphasis on contact received on the offensive end rather than focusing on fighting through it and finishing. This problem reared its ugly head with his poor ball security during key moments of the game. And even though it looked like it this year, I do not think that Pau is frail mentally, what happened this post season should not be seen again.
The only other knock I have against Pau is his tendency to under utilize his size when contesting shots, most apparently after dribble penetration where Pau is forced to rotate and help. He definitely leaves something to be desired defensively. Regardless Pau would be a enormous asset to any team.
One of the things I do admire most about Love is his blue collar style, kind of a throw back to the lunch pail, hard working type players of the past. He gets in the game and just outworks his opponents with solid effort and consistent energy. This speaks volumes about the guy’s character and his work ethic, and honestly it is hard to find players like that anymore.
What Love lacks in height he makes up in sound, smart, fundamental skill. His ability to box out, and place himself in the right place under the hoop, enables him to be a beast on the glass. Although he may never be a prominent shot blocker, he is a sharp and patient defender. I only see him continuing to develop this patience, and becoming even better at staying grounded when opponents attempt to get their defender stuck in the air.
He uses his weight well in the low post, but I do think he needs to continue to improve and add to his offensive arsenal. There is tremendous upside with this guy, and he brings what the Lakers need most moving forward, youth. Born in Southern California and playing his college ball as a Bruin means he should thrive as a Laker. And, as is a dream with most NBA players, he wants to be a Laker.
This should not be and cannot be a straight up trade if the decision is made to swap forwards. The T-Wolves definitely have the obligation to sweeten the deal. Either the 2nd or the 20th pick in this years draft would do, although I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the second. Pau deserves nothing less than that kind of trade value.
Whether or not the trade will ultimately happen still depends on many factors. For the Lakers they would be committing to a youth movement, and it could disrupt team chemistry. There are many other things to think about before pulling the trigger on a trade that will change the landscape of a championship caliber team, and I fully expect the Lakers to examine every one of those circumstances before making a decision.