Lakers Rumors: Will a Pau Gasol Trade Help Andrew Bynum?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IFebruary 20, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Andrew Bynum #17 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers react in the second half while taking on the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Depending on who you listen to, the Los Angeles Lakers are either furiously searching for a trade partner for forward Pau Gasol or general manager Mitch Kupchak is simply looking to upgrade the point guard position through a mid-level deal.

Whatever the case may be, star guard Kobe Bryant feels Lakers management should expedite the process since the uncertainty is clearly affecting Gasol's performances on the court, and I couldn't agree more with Bryant.

After Sunday's loss to the Phoenix Suns Bryant told reporters that he wishes management would either trade Gasol or make it publicly clear that they were not trading him so the Lakers could get on with their season.

Bryant's frustration with the team's seemingly casual indifference to the situation is a feeling that is mirrored by a majority of the Lakers fans. While no one is sure how management will proceed, whatever decision is made will likely affect center Andrew Bynum the most.

Bynum's averages of 16.3 points per game, 12.5 rebounds and 54.9 percent shooting from the field are the best numbers of his career and some of the credit for Bynum's numbers should go to Gasol.

Gasol's willingness to play the high-post position in head coach Mike Brown's offensive scheme has resulted in seven more field-goal attempts per game for Bynum than last season and more room to operate in the paint.

And Bynum's statistical rise has come at the expense of Gasol's own production.

Gasol's rebounding numbers are slightly up from last season, but his scoring and field-goal percentage are down and some of the drop-off can be attributed to a change in on-court responsibility.

Gasol has the ability to play outside of the paint, but he is more comfortable closer to the basket and his game has suffered due to the inability to make adjustments.

Before the regular season began it was widely assumed the Lakers would use Bynum as trade bait to lure Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to Los Angeles, and most of us were caught off guard by the team's failed attempt to attain point guard Chris Paul first.

If the Lakers would have acquired Paul, they may still have used Bynum to chase Howard, but the franchise may have sent a subtle message that they value Bynum more than Gasol.

Can Bynum live up to the responsibility of the Lakers only true inside presence if the team does decide to deal Gasol?

Bynum would certainly get even more touches in Gasol's absence, but it will not matter much unless the Lakers sign a point guard who can optimize Bynum's talent in the paint.

And Ramon Sessions or Gilbert Arenas are not the answer.

If the Lakers do deal Gasol, they should accept no less than an elite point guard in return and in my opinion the only truly elite lead guard on the market is New Jersey's Deron Williams.

The Lakers should not sacrifice the NBA's top frontcourt for anything less than a Williams-type talent, but unfortunately an elite point guard will have little bearing on Bynum's defensive performances.

And that's why I'm not completely sold on the thought of trading Gasol.

Bynum may become a more dominant offensive player without Gasol once he learns how to pass out of a double-team, but his sometimes lackadaisical defense will be exposed, similar to the way Suns center Marcin Gortat exposed Bynum on Sunday.

Brown got so tired of watching Gortat abuse Bynum to the tune of 21 points and 15 rebounds that Brown decided to sit Bynum for most of the third quarter when the Lakers made a run.

Gortat is a decent player, but whenever he plays the Lakers he seems great as Gortat has recorded three double-doubles in three consecutive games against the Lakers. Mostly at the expense of Bynum.

If Bynum has trouble defending Gortat on a consistent basis imagine what could happen against the NBA's best big men without Gasol to watch his back.

The Lakers' reputation as a stellar defensive team is based on the length and skill of Bynum and Gasol in the paint, so what happens when you subtract one half from that equation?

If the Lakers continue their descent into mediocrity, I'm afraid we're about to find out.