Now is the time to trade Pau Gasol
There’s no need to wait for Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to play together again to assess whether keeping Gasol is the right move for the Lakers.
Weren’t you paying attention in October?
The Lakers went 0-8 1/2 in games the duo both played, taking into account the preseason game Gasol sat out and the half-game Nash played against Portland before taking the knee to the leg that would become a royal pain in his rear.
Whether the Lakers are running the Princeton offense, Coach Mike D’Antoni’s faster-paced scheme or what could be dubbed zero seconds or less (Gasol’s playing time in the fourth quarter last month against Memphis), it’s obvious that the 7-footer has become the odd man out in this strangest of Lakers seasons.
The solution is simple, if painful. Thank the benevolent Gasol for his role in helping the Lakers win a pair of NBA titles and ship him off in exchange for a player (or three) who could take part in raising banner No. 17.
Here are five proposed Gasol trades, including salaries from this season, that could improve the Lakers while offering opposing teams reasonably equitable value:
1) Gasol ($19 million) for New York forward Amare Stoudemire ($19.9 million).
This one is obvious. Exchange a piece that doesn’t fit into D’Antoni’s system for one that thrived in Phoenix under the coach while playing alongside Nash.
Stoudemire, 30, is a much better floor-spacing big than Gasol, 32. He can effortlessly run the pick and roll with Nash. He doesn’t melt in the playoffs.
It’s clear that the tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire wasn’t working in New York, where the Knicks have thrived with Stoudemire sidelined this season after knee surgery.
The Lakers would be stuck with the bigger contract (Stoudemire is owed $45 million over the next two seasons as opposed to Gasol’s $19.2 million for 2013-14) and potentially more headaches. Fire extinguishers at the team’s practice facility would need to be encased in shatter-proof glass.
But a team seemingly stuck in slow motion would be much closer to Showtime, The Sequel.
2) Gasol and Chris Duhon ($3.5 million) for Atlanta power forward Josh Smith ($13.2 million) and point guard Devin Harris ($8.5 million).
The Hawks called this summer to inquire about a Smith-for-Gasol trade.
The Lakers said no thanks.
They would probably be a lot more receptive now.
Smith, 27, has helped Atlanta become one of the league’s surprises in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, but the Hawks obviously covet the skill set that has made Gasol a four-time All-Star.
Lakers center Dwight Howard would almost certainly be amenable to playing alongside Smith because they were once teammates on the AAU circuit. They could even hold a joint media conference in July to announce the signing of long-term extensions.
Harris, 29, is somewhat expendable with Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague off to a good start and would represent a major upgrade over the Lakers’ current backups.
3) Gasol and point guard Darius Morris ($962,000) for Indiana power forwards David West ($10 million) and Jeff Pendergraph ($1.5 million) and point guard D.J. Augustin ($3.5 million).
The no-stars, just-talent approach has failed in Indiana, particularly with Danny Granger being sidelined for the next three months with a knee injury.
This trade would outfit the Pacers with a marquee player to build around while giving West, 32, perhaps the league’s most underappreciated big man, a chance to flourish with more than a handful of people watching.
Pendergraph and Augustin, both 25, would largely be throw-ins to make the salaries work under NBA trade guidelines, though Augustin is a competent backup point guard.
Because this proposed trade is lopsided, it would entail the Lakers waiving a player. About half the roster would make good candidates.
4) Gasol for Minnesota small forward Andrei Kirilenko ($9.7 million) and power forward Derrick Williams ($4.8 million).
Williams, 21, is languishing in Minneapolis but would give the Lakers the kind of dynamic athleticism that their roster sorely lacks.
The Timberwolves would also probably be willing to part with valuable veteran Kirilenko, 31, to obtain Gasol, who could form a Big Three alongside Kevin Love and Spanish countryman Ricky Rubio.
The upside for the Lakers would be improved depth with a pair of players who aren’t plodders.
5) Gasol for Toronto point guard Jose Calderon ($10.5 million), power forward Amir Johnson ($6 million) and a first-round draft pick.
Andrea Bargnani’s torn ligaments in his elbow have scuttled any trade involving the power forward, but the Raptors still have a few attractive pieces to dangle for Gasol.
Even as a backup, Calderon, 31, ranks among the league’s assist leaders, and he would be an attractive insurance policy should Nash’s injury problems continue.
Johnson, 25, has been productive in limited minutes and could push Jordan Hill for the starting job.
And the Lakers certainly could use a draft pick after seemingly sending every one of their selections from now until 2050 to Orlando and Phoenix as part of the trades that brought them Howard and Nash.
That’s it for the proposals. The sub-.500 Lakers shouldn’t wait until the Feb. 21 trade deadline to make their move.
Now would be nice.
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