It was inevitable. As hard as the Los Angeles Lakers tried to create a championship stopgap, their roster simply wasn’t fit for title contention. So let the pillaging begin.
Los Angeles doesn’t have a bounty of trade assets to entice teams in the market for a move. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum are untouchable, Metta World Peace—barring another Mitch Kupchak miracle—is virtually untradeable and Pau Gasol has destroyed his market value over the past two seasons.
However, the latter may not hold true to a team like the Atlanta Hawks.
The Atlanta Hawks have been pursuing Pau Gasol, The Times has learned. Nothing imminent, but Josh Smith would be key piece going to Lakers.
After toiling with the concept of trading Gasol for over a year, it appears that yet another deal is in the works to move the veteran big man. Though Chris Paul negotiations and Ramon Sessions’ acquisition has taught us otherwise, Gasol has seemingly never been closer to leaving Los Angeles.
But is that a good thing?
That’s a question that hinges on who the Lakers would be receiving in return, which in this case would most definitely be Josh Smith, among other pieces to make the deal work financially. As the centerpiece of any accord, though, is he enough to right the ever growing list of worrisome wrongs in Los Angeles?
The answer is yes.
Not only is Smith younger and more athletic than Gasol, but he stands to make a much more significant two-way impact.
Though both athletes have similar range and explosiveness on offense, Smith works the glass like Gasol doesn’t. He’s aggressive when fighting for position and is one of the most effective offensive rebounders in the league.
Defensively, while Gasol is far from one of the most troubled defenders in the league, Smith exceeds his potential in every aspect. Not only is he a perennial shot blocker and offensive foul specialist, but he can step out on the perimeter and guard opponents Gasol wouldn’t dream of defending.
And that’s what Bryant and company need, explosive versatility. As terrific as Gasol as been over the years, his two-way versatility—and overall impact—is wavering. Whether his declination in production and effectiveness is a result of age, incessant trade rumors or another factor remains to be seen, however, the Lakers don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out.
As talented a player as Los Angeles would be receiving in return for Gasol, make no mistake, he has severely depressed his trade value over the last two years, specifically the last two postseason bouts. Yet the Hawks appear willing to overlook that as they struggle with commitment issues of their own stemming from Smith, rendering this a potential deal the Lakers must pursue hard, and do so now.
Much like the Lakers’ championship aspirations, the window to trade Gasol for significant competency is closing. This is no time for them to pretend the relationship between Gasol and the organization can be saved, and that he can rejuvenate his career under the bright lights of the Staples Center. And this is certainly no time for Los Angeles to forgo rocking the boat in an attempt to rest its title hopes on the shoulders of an unproven point guard.
The Lakers are in desperate need of a cornerstone not named Kobe Bryant, and neither Bynum nor Sessions—pending a new contract—are currently realistic options. And now, after five years, neither is Gasol.
But Smith is. And the Lakers can ill-afford to let him get away.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.