Not just because Steve Nash wants to play alongside him and not just because the Lakers owe it to their newly constructed team to see if the current dynamic works, but also because Los Angeles needs to evaluate the future of its team first.
The way Gasol’s contract is set up, he comes off the books after next season—along with Kobe Bryant—just in time for the free agency frenzy of 2014, when the Lakers will have enough cap space to chase any soul they please, including LeBron James. If they trade Gasol now, for a longer term contract that runs past then, that jeopardizes their blueprint for building around Dwight Howard. This is all assuming he re-signs this summer, of course. Which he will.
Now, those who advocate trading Gasol will point out the Lakers could ultimately swap him for a contract or two (or more) that fit into their future financial blueprint, and they would have a point. But 1) there are unlikely a wealth of teams prepared to both take on the $38 million remaining on the big man’s contract and send expiring deals in return, and 2) Los Angeles also has to ensure that it acquires someone who fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Are the Indiana Pacers a team that would be willing satisfy both requirements? Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times believes so:
Gasol and point guard Darius Morris ($962,000) for Indiana power forwards David West ($10 million) and Jeff Pendergraph ($1.5 million) and point guard D.J. Augustin ($3.5 million).
The no-stars, just-talent approach has failed in Indiana, particularly with Danny Granger being sidelined for the next three months with a knee injury.
This trade would outfit the Pacers with a marquee player to build around while giving West, 32, perhaps the league’s most underappreciated big man, a chance to flourish with more than a handful of people watching.
Pendergraph and Augustin, both 25, would largely be throw-ins to make the salaries work under NBA trade guidelines, though Augustin is a competent backup point guard.
Because this proposed trade is lopsided, it would entail the Lakers waiving a player. About half the roster would make good candidates.
At the risk of being do blunt, I must ask, is this guy kidding me?
I get that not everyone is not in the same boat as me; I get that not everyone wants to hold onto Gasol to see what he can do when he plays alongside for Nash in meaningful games. But David West? Really?
Sure, West is a free agent after this season, but is that necessarily a good thing? Like I said, Gasol’s contract is perfect because when it runs out, it coincides with the expiration of other deals that give the Lakers cap space. If they swap Gasol for West, the latter’s contract expires upon season’s end, but still leaves Los Angeles with no cap to work with.
Yes, the Lakers could re-sign him, but would he be amenable to a one year deal? Going on 33, it’s highly doubtful, meaning the Lakers would have to sacrifice some of their future coin by signing him to at least a two-year deal.
But let’s say Los Angeles is fine with that. Let’s say they believe West won’t cost them much. What then?
Well, to be honest, not much. Though West is averaging 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season, he doesn’t shoot the three-ball, leaving the Lakers with the same problem they have now. I certainly understand he has some range to his game, but it is no deeper than Gasol’s and, like the Spaniard, he doesn’t live on the perimeter.
And that’s why trades like these truly don’t make sense. We can speculate about the additions of a guy like West or even Amar’e Stoudemire all we want, but neither of them are stretch forwards. They, like Gasol, can hit shots on the perimeter, but not like a shooting guard or small forward can.
Of course, Los Angeles could opt to bring any one of these so-called “targets” off the bench to anchor the second-unit as a center, thus perpetuating the “one-in, four-out” concept. That said, if this ultimately becomes the plan, why not bring Gasol off the bench? Not only is he just as talented and offensively inclined, but his contract complements the Lakers’ future plans perfectly.
Should we be talking about Danny Granger instead of West, this would change everything. Heck, if the New Orleans Hornets were thick enough to deal Ryan Anderson, that may change everything as well.
But we’re not talking about either of them. We’re talking about West, among other power forwards, who don’t fit D’Antoni’s bill any more than Gasol does and who fit Los Angeles’ financial future even less.
While I continue to preach patience, I get that in the Land of Make Believe, that’s not always an option. So instead, I’ll preach sensibility. The Lakers can’t make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. They have to be smart about it.
And dealing Gasol in favor of West just wouldn’t be a smart play. Not just for today’s cause, but tomorrow’s as well.
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.