A couple of weeks ago the crew on ESPN’s NBA Countdown again suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers should trade Pau Gasol. Bill Simmons, show’s analyst, even threw out a scenario where the Lakers should trade Gasol to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith, Kyle Korver and another player. Once the talking heads on the show agreed the scenario was a good one, the whole social media scene went crazy. The analysts thought a move such as the Smith trade scenario would help the Lakers and make them better, but I am here to go against that train of thought.
As we all know Pau Gasol is the best when operating out of the post. To this point in the season, the post has been occupied by Kobe Bryant and also Dwight Howard, so we see Gasol on the perimeter more than we would like to. Gasol is multi-talented with the skills to shoot from the perimeter and also pass from the outside to make others better, but when Steve Nash gets back will Gasol’s skill set be fully utilized in order for this team to succeed?
Gasol has the skills to make every player better and as a team we know what he gives you. A lot of people are complaining that Gasol is getting older and he isn’t that athletic as some of the other power forwards he goes up against, but he is also a handful for them on the offensive end as well. Fans are also ignoring the fact that Gasol plays well with Bryant, which isn’t easy. Gasol also makes D. Howard a better player because he can hit perimeter shots consistently and pass well, leaving the post for Howard to operate in.
For the longest time Gasol has been under-appreciated by fans because he is the easiest to blame when things go wrong. He will never shake the “soft” label from the 2008 NBA Finals, even though he went through Howard and the same Boston Celtics team in the next two Finals. Lakers fans have very short memories and the only thing they want is results now, and the only way for them to see it is to get rid of Gasol and bring someone younger and more athletic how is more exciting to watch.
Josh Smith is indeed an interesting player; he’s a very talented ball player but doesn’t have one thing he does great. Smith is a player that isn’t known for either his passing or his outside shooting, which isn’t a good fit for this offense. His outside shooting has been so bad at times that the small crowds in Atlanta can be heard saying “NO” when he shoots any perimeter jump shot. Do you really want him on the court to help space the floor for Howard?
A big contributing factor to this is that Josh Smith has never been deep inside the playoffs and isn’t used to the constant pressure a high-profile team like the Lakers have to go through. I don’t think adding him in the middle of the season would help the team as much as fans think. There is an unknown with adding a player that isn’t as good as the guy you are trading just to try to appease the masses.
Granted, Josh Smith is a very good athlete and a solid defender. He is also entering his prime as an NBA player and his style can be a better fit with the new NBA trend of going “small” and having interchangeable lineups. But most basketball purists would prefer players with high IQ that are able to impact the game several ways rather than having a guy who is athletic but doesn’t have quite the same grasp of the NBA game.
If I were Mitch Kupchak I don’t make this move and I let this team work together and find their groove. When the game slows down in the playoffs Pau Gasol may ultimately be more effective for this Lakers team than Josh Smith, and that’s all that matters.