With the NBA trade deadline slowly approaching, teams will start evaluating where they sit and what kind of potential moves they can make to improve their teams. Some will look to add bench pieces, while others will look for starter quality players to make one last run at the post season. On the other hand, there will be the teams, such as the Washington Wizards, who are attempting to set themselves up for a better draft pick, or moving players to acquire more picks for June’s draft.
After the off season acquisitions of point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to wreck havoc in the league. With four potential hall of famers in Howard, Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, many picked the Lakers to go far in the playoffs and potentially win the championship for the 17th time.
Now just over two months into the new season, the Lakers are looking at potentially missing the playoffs if they don’t pick things up.
If you were to say the Lakers season has been smooth so far, you’d be lying to yourself and anyone and everyone listening. The Lakers have had a tumultuous season up to this point.
After starting the season 1-4 the team fired head coach Mike Brown. Former coach Phil Jackson, who led the team to their previous five championships, drew interest from the team and reports surfaced that the team was interested in hiring Jackson back. Things did not materialize and the team chose to hire former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.
The team has gone a lackluster 14-14 under D’Antoni, raising questions as to whether the team needs to make a move or not. One name that has been swirling around in rumors for most of the season if power forward Pau Gasol. Gasol, currently putting up career lows in points and field goal percentage, has struggled to grasp the “run and gun” type offense D’Antoni employes.
So, should the Lakers look to move Gasol to not only clear cap but to bring in a player who will fit in D’Antoni’s system better? The answer is yes and I’ll tell you who and why.
While the Lakers have had success with Gasol along with Bryant and a dominating center, then Andrew Bynum, the first third of this season has not been what the Lakers had hoped for. With the struggles continuing and the schedule not getting any easier or longer, now is the time for the Lakers to look at moving Gasol.
The real question in all of this is “Where would Gasol fit and who would take him on the contracts he’s on?” Simple: The Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors would be the ideal fit for Gasol, and the Raptors have players to offer the Lakers that not only can help them, but save them money.
PF/C Andrea Bargnani 3 yrs/33 Million
PG Jose Calderon 1 yr/10.5 Million
PF/C Pau Gasol 2 yrs/ 38.2 Million
Why it makes sense for the Lakers
The Lakers need a boost from somewhere. Something isn’t working for that team, and it’s showing with their on court performance so far this season. The bench lacks a true leader with back up Steve Blake out, and it’s been too inconsistent all season.
Bargnani and Calderon have been linked to possible trades, especially Calderon who had a huge expiring contract. With the soon to be stricter luxury tax penalties, teams will be looking for large expiring deals, while off loading bad contracts.
Before joining the Lakers, Dwight Howard had much success with the Orlando Magic in a system that required a “stretch power forward”, something that Bargnani could be for the team. Further more, Bargnani would help the Lakers spread the floor, which would allow point guard Steve Nash to penetrate and kick back out to open shooters. To a further extent, in the half court sets when Howard is posting up, if teams bring a hard double he’s able to pass it out to either the cutter or a wide open man on the three point line.
While Calderon’s impact on the team wouldn’t be as big, his involvement in the deal could be monumental. With the uncertainty of when Steve Blake will be back, and the possibility of Nash needing time to rest later in the season, Calderon not only gives them a true floor leader in the second unit, but a player with starting experience who can step in when Nash needs a night off.
A last potential selling point for the Lakers would be the ability to save money. Calderon, in the last year of his deal, comes off the books at the end of the season. In contrast to Gasol’s 19 million plus next season, Bargnani makes 11 million, giving the team 8 more million to possibly resign Howard in the offseason. Also, Bargnani who is only 27, would give the Lakers a player who is still young and in his prime to be able to pair with Dwight Howard, assuming he resigns.
Why is makes sense for the Raptors:
Bargnani isn’t happy, the Raptors aren’t happy, it’s time to part ways with the former number one overall pick. Calderon can bring the team something good potentially with his aforementioned expiring deal. The Raptors also don’t need Calderon after making a trade for Kyle Lowry in the offseason, the man they believe is their point guard of the future.
The Raptors have part of their future set with Lowry, shooting guard DeMar DeRozen and center Jonas Valanciunas. The addition of Gasol would not only give the team a veteran leader with playoff experience, but also a player that can help Valanciunas continue to improve his game.
Toronto, who is on the fringe of being able to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, needs an extra boost in anyway possible. Whether it be getting Bargnani back or trading him for pieces, the Raptors need something.
With Valanciunas out with a broken finger, the addition of Gasol would help the teams front court depth. Currently the team is starting Aaron Gray at center, they need the help. While Gasol is more fit to play the power forward, with Jonas out Gasol would be the percent replacement, then a nice complimentary player for the rookie once he has returned.
Both teams need some sort of pick me up. The Lakers need a boost to save their season, one many believed was destined for a championship run. Toronto, marred in the middle of the weak eastern conference, lacking the veteran leader and extra boost to make the playoffs. Both teams can improve with this trade, the question now: Will it happen? Only time will tell that.