5 Trade Destinations for Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol was already traded once this season. Then Lord—excuse me—Commissioner Stern intervened and sent him back to the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, Gasol is clamoring for more touches, something he will not get with Kobe Bryant and an ever-developing Andrew Bynum in town.
Will the Lakers trade the man who once was considered the piece that got them to the NBA Finals three years in a row, and helped them win two? If they want to make some moves, Gasol is their only tradeable asset. Kobe Bryant will retire a Laker, and L.A. is not trading Bynum unless it is for Dwight Howard.
So, if the Lakers are going to move their All-Star power forward, here are five trades they should take a long, hard look at. All trades in this slideshow have been approved by ESPN's Trade Machine.
Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets
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Los Angeles Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes for Luis Scola, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic and Hasheem Thabeet
Luis Scola is a solid, blue-collar power forward to replace Gasol. He does not need to dominate the ball to score and would be a perfect third option behind Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. If the Lakers are going to trade for a clear downgrade at Gasol's position, they need to upgrade their other needs.
Goran Dragic is a solid, young point guard and a huge defensive upgrade over Derek Fisher. Courtney Lee is an athlete, streaky shooter and he can play minutes from point guard to small forward. Hasheem Thabeet is nothing but a salary-matcher, but he is still young and still 7'3", so he does have some value as a backup to Bynum.
Barnes is a valuable player for the Lakers, but they have plenty of small forwards in Metta World Peace, Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and Devin Ebanks to replace him. With the Rockets, Barnes and Gasol would provide a veteran presence accustomed to winning.
With a starting five of Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Barnes, Gasol and Samuel Dalembert, this team will be a tough out in the Western Conference.
Pau Gasol to the Utah Jazz
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Los Angeles Lakers trade Pau Gasol to the Utah Jazz for Paul Millsap and Devin Harris
Again, if the Lakers are going to trade for an inferior big, they have to get a big upgrade elsewhere. Paul Millsap may not be quite on Gasol's level, but he is still a damn good power forward. He is a bit small for the position (listed generously at 6'8") but more than makes up for it with heart and hustle. His work ethic is something the Lakers could use down low, and he is a guy that would fit in perfectly as a third scorer.
Harris is the X-factor here. At worse, he is still an upgrade over Derek Fisher. At best, he is a an All-Star-caliber point guard capable of holding his own against the likes of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Harris seemed destined for stardom just a few years ago, and he peaked with an average of 21 points and seven assists. Now he is mired in a season-long slump in Utah, in the midst of his worst season since he was a rookie.
Sometimes, fixing a player's struggles is as simple as a change of scenery. Given the reward over the risk, this is a trade the Lakers must make if it is on the table.
Pau Gasol to the Atlanta Hawks
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Los Angles Lakers trade Pau Gasol to Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith and Kirk Hinrich
The Atlanta Hawks are an island of misfit toys. For years, I thought they were a serviceable center from being a true contender, rather than the one-and-done team they are destined to be until Joe Johnson's contract runs out with the current roster.
Al Horford is miscast as a center, and Josh Smith has not really hit a consistent groove with Atlanta. It is time to shake things up. By bringing in Gasol, Horford could shift over to the 4-spot where he would be a perennial All-Star. Gasol is the natural, fluid scorer the Hawks do not have to pair with Joe Johnson. As a guy that won back-to-back championships, he will scoff at the Miami Heat's would-be dynasty rather than be intimidated by them.
With the Lakers, Smith would be a wild card. His offensive responsibility would consist of throwing down lobs and put-back dunks, but he would be a defensive superstar in L.A. With his length and athleticism, Smith can guard any position from shooting guard to power forward. His defensive prowess is exactly what this team needs.
Kirk Hinrich will likely never get his starting job back with the Hawks. They really like Jeff Teague, and rightfully so. With the Lakers, his three-point shooting, gritty defense and playoff experience would be a perfect fit.
Pau Gasol to the Cleveland Cavaliers
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Los Angeles Lakers Trade Pau Gasol for Anderson Varejao and Ramon Sessions
Once again, if the Lakers are willing to downgrade at power forward, they need to upgrade on the perimeter. Ramon Sessions is a pretty solid point guard losing minutes by the day to the current favorite for Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving.
All these years later, Varejao is still an underrated commodity. He is averaging a double-double this season, and he's as good of a post defender as there is in the NBA. Placed with more responsibility than at any point in his NBA career, Varejao has responded by filling up the stat sheet, contributing with points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists.
He is a guy that will gladly cede to the other scorers on the floor and get his 10 points per night through hustle and determination. Varejao is a veteran of deep playoff runs and has gone as far as the NBA Finals. He has proven he does not shy from the big games, but rather turns on an extra-hustle gear that makes him capable of ripping down 15-20 boards.
In Cleveland, a core of Kyrie Irving, Pau Gasol and an emerging Tristan Thompson will turn around the rebuilding process faster than anyone expected. With veteran scorer Antawn Jamison, this team should make the playoffs this season, and they would be far from an easy out.
A Miami-Cleveland first round, anyone?
Pau Gasol to the New Jersey Nets
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Los Angeles Lakers trade Pau Gasol to the New Jersey Nets for Deron Williams straight up
At this point (see: Stern veto/Kupchak not not pulling the trigger on a Gasol for Kevin Love and second overall pick last summer), this is the best trade the Lakers can make, and it is logical for both teams.
The New Jersey Nets' chances of trading for Dwight Howard are slim-to-nil. The Orlando Magic seem dead set on keeping Howard in spite of all the signs that point to him leaving via free agency. If they do trade him, the Magic can find a better deal than what the Nets can offer. And if the Nets don't land Howard, they can say goodbye to Williams.
That is why Williams for Gasol is a perfect trade. Williams would sign a contract extension before his flight landed in Los Angeles, while Gasol would be a Net until 2014. With Gasol and Brook Lopez, the Nets would have arguably the game's best center-power forward combination.
Marshon Brooks is a keeper at shooting guard, and the team will have a lottery pick in the deepest draft in years to find a point guard or dynamic wing player. Imagine this team with Jordan Farmar (though, I would expect them to find a better replacement at point) Brooks, Harrison Barnes, Gasol, Lopez and Kris Humphries off the bench. It is not Mikhail Prokhorov's dynasty, but it is a playoff team for the next five years.
For the Lakers, they have literally the perfect matchup for Chris Paul, who would absolutely torch the current Lakers' roster. To replace Gasol, they have two serviceable power forwards in Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy, while Bynum would be a much-deserved bigger piece of the offense.
An all-around perfect trade for both teams.