Thursday, February 23, 2012

Finding a Home For Pau Gasol

With the Pau Gasol trade rumors swirling, the drama in Los Angeles is palpable. The Lakers aren't exactly sure what they want to do, but a Gasol trade could completely retool their team both now and for the future. As John Hollinger notes in Wednesday's PER Diem, their roster so far this season has basically consisted of three stars (Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Gasol), one average player (Matt Barnes), and a bunch of scrubs (Derek Fisher, Metta World Peace, et al). That's what happens when you trade away Lamar Odom in what equates to a salary dump: you end up as a middle of the pack Western Conference contender with few trade assets.
Where could Pau end up?
It's normally preferable to keep a great player like Gasol instead of trading for a handful of good players, but such a trade would provide some much needed depth (the Lakers are fortunate that none of their big three have missed time to injury in this compressed season) and likely cut salary--or more importantly, cut down their luxury tax bill. It should be noted that I tried to include Luke Walton and his albatross of a contract in the deals as a sort of "trade tax" for earning the right to add Pau freaking Gasol. Metta World Peace might be able to be dumped instead, but he has a longer and more expensive contract, which makes him more likely to be amnestied. Furthermore, I included Devin Ebanks and/or Darius Morris for roster spot purposes, and because I'm high on both as possible throw-ins that could valuable down the road, a la Ryan Anderson in the Vince Carter trade. Whether or not this could be a precursor to a future Dwight Howard trade (with more of a variety of assets to package with Andrew Bynum) is yet to be determined. More on that later...

First trade scenario: the Houston Rockets for Scola, Dragic, Budinger, Morris, and Thabeet.
This is basically the trade idea Hollinger proposed, and a couple of draft picks could be included as well. It makes sense since Houston is the quintessential "team with a bunch of assets and nice players," and GM Darryl Morey has been waiting to pounce on a big move to cash in all his chips--something that would have happened in the vetoed CP3-to-the-Lakers deal that would have netted him Gasol then (and possibly a Nene signing as a result). With Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Samuel Dalembert, and Jordan Hill, Gasol would have a nice cast around him that could land a top-4 seed.

Scola has begun to decline after a great 2011 season,but he would fill the Spaniard's role nicely in LA, and Morris would provide more forward depth as a nice rookie prospect. Budinger has been replaced by Parsons as a second round small forward steal, but he would be a huge upgrade for the Lakers; as would Dragic for the point guard spot. Thabeet is merely a throw-in for cap purposes, but who knows, maybe he'll finally find his way in LA?

Second trade scenario: the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, and Marvin Williams.
The Lakers would actually be taking on more salary in this trade, but they would also be dumping Walton's contract. All-Star Snub J-Smoove would bring some much needed athleticism in Gasol's place while still providing an excellent passing presence. Hinrich has been targeted by the Lakers in the past because he's a big point guard who can shoot and defend multiple positions, and he's in the last year of his contract. Williams has had a strong bounce back year and could probably flourish even more with a change of scenery.

I chose to include Morris in the deal instead of Ebanks because Atlanta would need a backup point guard, but I could see them preferring the wing depth and just have Tracy McGrady and/or Joe Johnson serve as the nominal backup point guard. This deal would also get the Hawks under the luxury tax line, which is huge when considering their shaky ownership situation. Also, when Al Horford returns from injury, whether that be in time for the playoffs or next year, he and Gasol would provide an excellent front court duo. I think they would fit together perfectly with their solid defense, great passing ability, and underrated outside shooting. The way they could work the Hi-Low would be reminiscent of the pairing of Zach Randolph with Marc Gasol, Pau's little brother.
Side note: think about how dangerous Spain will be in the Olympics this year with the Gasol brothers being backed up by newly naturalized (!!) SERGE IBAKA. And with a newly invigorated Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, and Ricky Rubio? Yikes. Speaking of which...

Little Ricky is paired with his fellow countryman Pau! 
Third trade scenario (and my favorite): the Minnesota T-Wolves for Williams, Beasley, Ridnour, Randolph, and Milicic. 
This was a hot rumor before the draft with Rubio set to finally come over, and it allegedly gained steam again last week as well, with the Lakers being very high on Beasley. He would provide reliable scoring from the forward position, and Ridnour would be a nice point upgrade as well. Derrick Williams, the #2 pick in the draft, would be the real prize here as the future star paired with Bynum. He'd be returning home to SoCal, where he attended La Mirada high school (and was classmates with one of my friends here at UCSB!), so that's a nice little bonus. He has excelled in his brief opportunity as a starter with consistent minutes, and I really believe he's going to be a star. Milicic is included for salary purproses and, for all his faults, is a capable rotation player as a backup center. Randolph is a typical throw-in based on his flashes of potential that could shine in the bright lights of LA.

For the Timberwolves, this is a huge step towards competing for the playoffs and ending the rebuilding process. The core of this team is obviously Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and since Williams pretty much looks like a power forward as well, moving him and spare parts for a franchise center is a no-brainer. Nikola Pekovic has emerged as a potential star since becoming the starting center, but he is no Gasol. This could be a fluke considering he struggled so mightily as a rookie last year, but I think last year was the fluke since he was highly touted coming from Europe. Either way, a big man rotation of Love, Gasol, and Pekovic would be deadly. With free agent signee J.J. Barea back healthy, Ridnour is much more expendable as the backup point guard who can also play as a scoring guard alongside the bigger Rubio. Wayne Ellington, Martell Webster, and Wes Johnson will have to be relied on more heavily to man the wings, and while that is a bit scary, I think they can hold their own. I still believe in Johnson's potential if he's playing his proper position of the 3, I've always like Ellington from his Carolina days thanks to his shooting, and Webster is a proven role player who can defend multiple spots and shoot threes consistently. As long as he doesn't do THIS again, they'll be good.

1 comment:

  1. I want to add this Bill Simmons column from Thursday that's focused on the Celtics but proposes a Rondo-for-Gasol swap as the main deal in a huge series of moves that would look like this:

    In case you couldn't tell, I love blockbuser trade ideas. So check his column out: