After Sunday’s 102-90 loss to the rebuilding Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant expressed how the Lakers management's treatment of Pau Gasol is taking a toll on Gasol's performance. He is averaging 16.6 points per game, the lowest of his career by a small margin.
Bryant said that Gasol is unable to give his best effort each game with all of the uncertainty surrounding his future. That uncertainty, he said, is hurting the team.
Trading Gasol may hurt the Lakers offensive production. Gasol often plays in the high-post in Mike Brown’s offense which has opened up room for center Andrew Bynum in the paint. Bynum is having his best offensive season of his career, currently averaging 16.3 points and 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. He is also averaging almost 4.5 more field goal attempts each game.
Without Gasol in the high-post spot or another suitable option on the roster, Bynum would be the only true frontcourt presence on the team.
One way to try and make this work without Gasol is to bring in a ball distributor to play at the point and who can bring the best out of Bynum as he adjusts without having Gasol.
There does not seem to be a free agent point guard of this capability. The Lakers worked out Gilbert Arenas earlier this month, but without a contract offer, perhaps he would not be an upgrade over Derek Fisher.
Gasol himself probably does not have the trade value of an elite point guard.
There also have been rumors of a swap of Gasol for Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer is talented but he is a different player than Gasol. Gasol has more skill, and Boozer may not fit into Brown’s offense as well.
Minnesota has also been rumored to offer rookie forward Derrick Williams and draft picks for Gasol. Williams has a lot of potential and tons of upside to his future, but this would be a trade for the future. Bryant is 33 and wants to continue winning now. Trading your starting power forward for a young forward would not help the Lakers pursuit of improving their point guard spot and would admit that they are not looking to win this season.
The best way to fix this problem now is for Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the team’s management to come out and publicly support Gasol. The Lakers could get on with their season and finally begin to develop the chemistry that would allow them to potentially make a run in the playoffs.