Lakers executive Jim Buss had brought in Head Coach Mike Brown this season to usher in a new era of Lakers basketball, emphasizing defensive toughness and working through the post on offense.
The defense has been stout, even with a gaping defensive liability at point guard (usually Derek Fisher screams "Help!" before the opposing point guard crosses half court). An efficient post offense, though, has been a work in progress thus far.
The Lakers have slowed down the pace to accompany their big men, now ranked at 22nd in the league. If this move was supposed to help put the ball in the basket, the stats say otherwise.
The Laker’s offensive efficiency and points per possession are at their worst since Gasol came to Los Angeles. Not being able to crack the NBA’s top half in either category with Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Bynum in the fold is discouraging.
At this juncture, the Lakers’ could not outscore 6 of the 7 current playoff teams in the West.
Credited as one of the most skilled big men in the NBA today, Gasol’s talents have not been able to uplift his team’s offensive rating from 17th in the NBA.
You could criticize the mercurial Andrew Bynum for his on-again, off-again playing habits.
Then again, the Lakers’ center is piling up career rebound numbers and is as healthy as he’s ever been. In addition, he’s only 24 years old. Through tough injuries and some behavior issues, he’s beginning to blossom into one of the NBA’s top big men.
You could criticize Kobe Bryant’s shot selection.
In this half court offense, Bryant was supposed to be the outside shooting presence, not the majority of the offense. Some nights he’ll hoist up 40 shots, not even shooting 40 percent during too many of them.
On the other hand, he is the current NBA scoring leader.
Usually a player with such a high point total has to carry a bigger load to make up for a weak supporting cast. Fisher and Metta World Peace have combined for 1.2 win shares.
In the midst of Kobe and Bynum searching for identity, Pau Gasol has become less effective.
He watched his brother Marc make the All-Star team while he stayed at home for the first time in three years. To make matters worse, his worst seasonal stat line in Los Angeles has forced the Lakers' coaching staff to look elsewhere.
The trade rumors may have hurt his work ethic or his NBA odometer has gotten too high to maintain production. All plausible reasons for a regression.
But Gasol can still hoop. He can carry an offense through his high post exploits. His trade suitors have been sticking around because they because the Spaniard could be the missing piece for title contention.
NBA GM’s are not deterred by Gasol’s lack of efficiency. His trade value really hasn’t diminished.
The Lakers can still get premium players in exchange for Gasol. These potential Laker pieces could be their offensive elixir for a stretch run into June.
With multiple suitors itching to make a deal, The Lakers have the pick of the litter. Some of their choices would stir the pot in Los Angeles.
The Laker’s would finally get their point guard to pair with their superstar scorer Bryant and imposing big man Bynum. On talent alone, that’s a Big Three.
The dynamic between Kobe and Rondo would be an interesting storyline to follow the rest of the season.
Rondo changes his team’s style of play, a magician in transition who works best as a facilitator. The potential pairing with Kobe, who relies on an array of post-up and isolation moves to be truly effective, would be a powerful, yet polarizing backcourt.
Rondo may be the piece that would make Mike Brown’s defense complete. That may be enough to deal Gasol alone.
Door number two presents the Houston Rockets with their package of Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola.
Lowry, one of the candidates for Most Improved Player this season, would fill the void at point guard with his 15 points, 7.5 assists and 20.61 PER.
Scola can be regarded as a middle-class Gasol, a skilled big who brings efficient play and leadership to the court. He also brings a defensive toughness that may be more suited to this Laker team more so than Gasol.
The combination of Lowry and Scola may make Los Angeles more complete to rival West contenders.
Finally, door number three. The Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
While talks about a Bynum and Gasol for Howard swap have been discussed on end by talking heads and bloggers alike, the inclusion of a third team is necessary for any realistic possibility of this deal hitting the ESPN Bottomline.
Of course, there’s a large possibility that Howard will not be dealt, but the Lakers would have to give Orlando GM Otis Smith an offer he can’t refuse.
If the Lakers could snag Jameer Nelson (and somehow revive his career-low numbers this year) or perhaps Jose Calderon from the Raptors, they would add a facilitator along with the best defensive player in the game behind him.
There’s no doubt what Howard’s brings to the dinner table. He would make Mike Brown’s defensive unit the best in the NBA.
Coupled with Kobe in search of his sixth ring, Howard’s will to win would be stronger than ever.
Even more so, the best natural one-two punch since Shaq and Kobe would reside in Los Angeles once again.Sounds good enough to part with Gasol.
The Lakers relationship with Gasol is already hanging by a thread. They have the assets to improve their team for now and later.
Pick your poison Los Angeles.