The Los Angeles Lakers may be the biggest disappointment of the young NBA season.
Entering the year as the favorites in the Western Conference, L.A. has struggled since the opener. Through 15 games, they are still one game under .500, and have yet to turn things around under Mike D’Antoni.
One of the biggest reasons for the Lakers troubles has been the play of their big men. After pairing Dwight Howard with Pau Gasol, Los Angeles was expected to have a dominant frontcourt.
That hasn’t been the case.
Both players have yet to find a rhythm on offense. They’re averaging a combined 31 points per game, seven points less than their total from last year.
L.A. traded Andrew Bynum for Howard in the offseason, and is looking to sign him to a long-term contract. Gasol has been with the club for six seasons, and hasn’t been the same player since Phil Jackson retired. The Lakers tried to trade Gasol before last season, and could be looking to deal the seven-footer, once again.
The latest rumors have Gasol going to the New York Knicks. An article on the basketball Web site HoopsVibe, recently stated that rumors have been circulating about a potential swap involving Gasol and Amare Stoudemire.
The report may not have much validity to it, but a deal between the Knicks and Lakers isn’t out of the realm of possibility. If Gasol doesn’t improve his production, L.A. could be looking to move him, and a trade for Stoudemire could benefit both teams.
New York has gotten off to a fast start this season, winning 10 of their first 14 games. Their success has come with Stoudemire on the bench, who is recovering from a knee injury. Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire haven’t played well together in their time with the Knicks, and New York might look to move him. Just as Gasol was almost dealt for Chris Paul, there were reports that Stoudemire was almost sent to the New Orleans Hornets for the point guard.
While Gasol has had problems under D’Antoni, Stoudemire has thrived in the coach’s offensive system. With Steve Nash and D’Antoni, Stoudemire went to three Western Conference Finals. He could help jumpstart the Lakers offense.
The trio of D’Antoni, Nash and Stoudemire never made it to an NBA Finals, but they might have their best chance to do so with this Lakers team. Howard would make them much better defensively than any of those Suns teams. Kobe Bryant is a more dominant scorer than anyone who played on Phoenix last decade.
Stoudemire can be a dominant offensive player, but his game doesn’t translate well with the current Knicks roster. Both he and center Tyson Chandler score most of their points when rolling towards the basket, so it’s hard for them to find proper spacing. With Stoudemire, Chandler and Anthony on the court at the same time last season, the Knicks were in the bottom five in offensive efficiency.
Gasol’s game would complement Chandler’s a lot better than Stoudemire’s does. He doesn’t utilize pick-and-rolls nearly as much, and can play with his back towards the basket.
The Lakers might be skeptical about trading for Stoudemire. He’s had injury issues his entire career, and hasn’t played a game this season. The big man is owed over $60 million in the next three years. Los Angeles might not be willing to commit that much money to a player with so many injury concerns.
Stoudemire’s deal, though, is just one year longer than Gasol’s. Despite his large salary, his expiring contract will make him a valuable commodity in the 2014-2015 season.
With more than 80 percent of their games yet to be played, the Lakers still have time to compete for the Pacific Division crown and put together a championship run. Nash's injury has kept him off the court for most of the season, and Los Angeles has played under three head coaches.
Los Angeles has too much talent to play this poorly for much longer. Just like the Miami Heat in 2010, who also brought in multiple star players, it will take some time for the new teammates to gel.
However, the Lakers won’t be afraid to make a major move, if things don’t improve soon. Gasol’s numbers have dipped since their last title run, and it could be time for a change.