The Los Angeles Lakers season ended abruptly Monday, as they were ousted from the playoffs by the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder. If it wasn’t already clear before the series loss, this Lakers team is not championship material. Changes are needed in LA, and they need to happen quickly, as the window closes on Kobe Bryant‘s career.
First off let me say that I don’t think this is a “blow it up” situation. The Lakers have a solid roster, that with some tweaking, could be back in competition for an NBA title next season.
One guy who does need to go however, is Pau Gasol. I don’t know what has happened to him over the past two years, but he’s not the same player that helped LA to consecutive titles, two years back. Gasol seems disengaged at times on the court, and just plays too soft to be a game changer. Numerous times in the playoffs, I found myself wondering if Gasol’s head was lodged, you know where…
Gasol is a guy who still has trade value, but not at the level he did a year ago, when the Lakers nearly acquired Chris Paul. Regardless, the Lakers can still get some value in exchange for him. How much? Remains to be seen.
Even if they can’t work a deal to get a player like Paul in return, LA needs to get a more traditional power forward in their starting lineup, as well as another solid role player for the bench.
I would trade Gasol over Andrew Bynum, just simply because Bynum is younger, and has more upside. Bynum can handle the load down low, and he doesn’t need another Pau by his side to be effective.
If Bynum grows up, and really puts his mind to it, he can be the best center in the league, no question about it.
Who specifically the Lakers should target in exchange for Gasol, is a tough call. They have to get at least two ‘good’ players in return, in a straight-up deal, or work another 3 team deal, that could potentially land another star.
They have to make a trade that immediately makes them better, not a trade, just to trade. The Lakers are one or two players away from being able to legitimately compete for a title again. They shouldn’t be thinking long-term yet, because Kobe still has some gas in the tank for a couple more runs. Their time to win is next year, or at latest the year after, as it’s unlikely Bryant keeps playing longer than that.
Is there a team out there that would really want Gasol and his $19 million/year deal? I say absolutely there is, and the Lakers need to find them quickly.