In a recent report from Fox Sports’ Sam Amico, it appears the Lakers are looking to trade Pau Gasol for a young, scoring point guard.
Just days earlier, Gasol expressed his desire to retire as a Laker but also said he’d be resistant to taking a significant pay cut next season — essentially following the lead of Kobe Bryant, who said something similar a few months back. (While Gasol won’t be offered anything close to the $19 million he’ll be paid this season by any team, he’s likely asserting that he won’t take significantly less money from the Lakers compared with his market value around the league.)
The timing of the trade rumors is unfortunate given the rejuvenated mind state the Spaniard had over the offseason following the departure of Dwight Howard. The Howard move guaranteed Pau the peace of mind regarding his role this season, which is essentially playing in the low post at the five as the Lakers’ second option behind Kobe Bryant.
It’s also unfortunate since one of the main reasons Steve Nash decided to come to the Lakers was the idea of playing alongside the highly intelligent, highly skilled, and highly unselfish Pau Gasol. The two have shown flashes of developing a strong offensive chemistry so far this preseason, and Gasol with Chris Kaman — both seven-footers who play a similar style of basketball — have also shown a promising ability to not only co-exist in the front court, but elevate each other’s respective games.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni has also seemingly been pleased with what Gasol has shown thus far, and seems generally excited to have the big man — whom he called the “best center in the NBA” recently — as the anchor of what he hopes to be a high-powered, run-and-fun offense.
Why Not To Trade Him
Last season, I was adamant that the Lakers shouldn’t trade Gasol. I wrote an article on how he was the Lakers’ best chance at winning ballgames due to his elite skill set, half-court ability, and size.
To sum up, no post player in the league — besides perhaps Tim Duncan — has the type of skill set that Pau Gasol possesses. He has a rare ability to shoot, face up, post up, utilize both hands, and pass the ball; Gasol’s play-making ability may actually be the best in the league for a big man.
Additionally, because of those skills, Gasol is able to pick apart defenses in the half-court, which is an essential asset to have in playoff type situations or intense, close games. Last season was tough given the Lakers’ collective age, but this season with some youth surrounding him, Pau’ presence could be the perfect match for the team.
Finally, while plenty of teams are going smaller and have been successful in doing so, size is always an advantage. When you have a guy on the low block as talented as Pau Gasol, it created problems for the opposition.
Why To Trade Him
Regardless of how fans, players, or even coaches feel about Pau Gasol, ultimately the decision is up to Lakers’ management in Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
With the Lakers currently in a “restructuring” type of season, management is undoubtedly looking to the future and to the summer 0f 2014 — where they’ll have immense financial flexibility.
Gasol is under contract this season for approximately $19 million, but will be a free agent this summer. Certainly, this factor is weighing on the minds of Buss and Kupchak, along with Gasol’s recent comments. As stated above, Gasol will undoubtedly have to take a pay cut next season regardless of which team he plays for, but may be asked to take less money than other teams are offering to stay with the Lakers.
While Gasol may eventually change his stance on the pay cut to stay with the Lakers next season, he’ll still be 34-years-old. So, if the Lakers can truly get some valuable young talent for years to come, they may be best suited to pull the trigger on a trade.
Gasol’s expiring contract may be enticing to any team looking to clear cap space after the season, so a better deal could be made this season than, say, last season.
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