Oh boy, to say Pau Gasol’s season so far has been disappointing is a huge understatement. It started off on the wrong foot, as Gasol reportedly had knee tendinitis during Pre-Season, in which former head coach Mike Brown decided to play the Spaniard through it anyways, thinking Gasol would get better if he simply played through it. That hasn’t been the case, as his knee tendinitis continued to worsen to the point where Gasol’s mid-range shot looked entirely flat because he can’t jump as high and thus strains on his mid range shot and his help defense was very slow. Mike D’Antoni, recognized the fact that he can kill two birds with one stone by starting Antawn Jamison, benched Gasol indefinitely, until his knee tendinitis has cleared up. So, right now Gasol’s value is at an all time low because, realistically, how many teams would be interested in an aging Power Forward with balky knees and an enormous contract?
Nonetheless, a few teams have reportedly offered deals for Gasol, as well as interest in other players from the Lakers themselves. Here are the most talked about ones:
· Pau Gasol to Atlanta for Josh Smith. This rumor was hot during the offseason, after the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard and why wouldn’t it be? The Hawks were in the middle of cleaning house by getting rid of Joe Johnson’s ridiculous contract as well as trading draft bust Marvin Williams to Utah, not to mention Smith being a childhood friend of Howard and the Lakers trying everything to keep Howard past this season. Obviously, the Lakers win in this deal since Smith is getting paid about 7 million dollars less per year than what Gasol makes and he’s 27. His skill set is something the Lakers would love to have at the 4 spot, as he’s the best kind of “tweener” because of his incredible athleticism and his natural outside game make him hard to stop on fastbreaks, not to mention his tenacious defense (in case you were curious, Smith averages the same amount of blocks per game as Dwight Howard with 2.2) and the fact that he may very well be the best passing big man in the league. This deal is my favorite of the bunch, no matter how unlikely it is.
· Pau Gasol to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson: This is purely the Lakers reported interest in the Hornet’s stretch 4 and it seems it would be a pretty fair deal for both sides if not for Anderson getting paid about 10 million dollars less per year. His contract is very accessible for a player of his caliber. Anderson is an extremely underrated player as he is seen purely as a 3 point shooter when, in fact, he’s a much more accomplished big man that can put up points from anywhere on the court, and rebound well enough to not be seen as a one dimensional player. His WS/48 has been an incredibly high .179 for his career (for reference, Kobe Bryant’s career WS/48 is .185). Many thought Anderson benefited heavily from having Howard on his team in Orlando, but as he has proven this season, he can be a team’s best player and still be efficient in his scoring. This deal would need to include another player(s) from New Orleans to help balance out salaries, but since the Hornets have virtually no bad contracts, this deal looks highly unlikely as well, especially since nobody really knows how much interest the Hornets have to begin with.
· Pau Gasol to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Linas Kleiza. And now we get to the most likely of all the deals as Toronto has reportedly offered the Lakers this deal already, though the Lakers have shot it down and not because they don’t like the deal (it is a very good one for Los Angeles) but because Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak want to assess the team with Steve Nash and Gasol healthy before moving him or not. Let’s being with Kleiza who is…a guy. Kleiza is a jack of all trades kind of guy, but he’s not really all that good at any of those things. He can play defense, shoot an inconsistent 3 ball and generally not lose you the game, but he’d pretty much be there to warm the bench over in L.A. The meat of the deal is with Calderon and Bargnani; the 31 year old Spaniard is currently an above average point guard who can shoot with the best of them and is careful with the ball. This season, he’s shooting 47% from deep and averaging 7.1 assists per game despite losing the starting role to Kyle Lowry. Calderon, along with Jamison or Bargnani, would have the 6th man role, giving Steve Nash much needed rest (remember: Nash has never played more than 35 minutes a game for his career) and keeping the offense smooth. Bargnani was the 1st overall pick in 2006; he has largely failed to live up to the standards of it. He’s another stretch 4, perfectly apt to run D’Antoni’s system, but I worry about his rebounding and his defense; this season, he is only averaging 4.4 rebounds despite being listed as 7 feet tall. His DWS is 0.2 and his OWS is -0.1. He has struggled to start the season, but his skill set is great to have alongside Howard in the middle. I think the Lakers will seriously consider this deal, as it seems it’s the best they can get right now for Gasol.
The Lakers are smart to hold on to Gasol because we don’t know how well he can perform in this system when he is healthy and playing with Steve Nash. I think the front office would prefer to wait until Nash comes back before seriously shopping Gasol; teams need to know Gasol isn’t as declined as he looks and can be a valuable asset to most teams moving forward. Despite looking pretty bad to start the season, Gasol still has his incredibly high Basketball I.Q. and good passing to help jump start most offenses. Right now, the Lakers don’t look like they’ll trade Gasol yet and I agree with the decision from a basketball viewpoint.