Though the Los Angeles Lakers are currently sitting in third place in the Western Conferences, there are signs that they are trying to make a trade to fill their hole at point guard.
Sure they have veteran Derek Fisher running point at the moment, but with a player efficiency rating of 8.81 (his all-time worst, which is saying a lot) the Lakers would be wise to find someone to take over with the eventual/inevitable benching of Fisher, though another forward/center and a small forward are also needs.
Mitch Kupchak’s best asset for a trade is Pau Gasol, a player that many teams would love to have and the time to make a move is now. Lakers fans may, and should, cringe at the thought of losing Gasol, and dismantling the Gasol-Bynum one-two punch in the paint.
With the restructuring of the salary cap rules there simply is not enough room for both Gasol and Bynum without having to write large checks to competing teams that remain under the cap.
Listed by Forbes as the NBA’s most valuable franchise, the Lakers are not in a position to be overly concerned about saving money. That said, Pau Gasol’s contract over the next three years is $18.7, $19.0 and $19.2 million.
Bynum is making $15.1 million this year, and the team can exercise a $16.4 million option next season.
If they are looking to re-sign Bynum, which I imagine is part of their plan for rebuilding the team after Kobe leaves, they need to make sure there is space for both a large Bynum extension and enough money to attract a marquee free agent in 2013 (Chris Paul anyone?).
With the new collective bargaining agreement sending larger amounts of money to those teams that stay under the salary cap, unless the Lakers want to heavily subsidize teams they compete against they will need to spread their money across positions.
Gasol and Bynum simply cannot coexist anymore.
Bynum is currently out-producing Gasol in nearly every statistical category.
Bynum is averaging more points (17.1 to 16.6), rebounds (12.6 to 10.5), blocks per game (2.1 to 1.4) and free throw attempts (5.1 to 3.9, which helps get opposing big men in foul trouble).
In addition, Bynum is shooting better from the field (56.7 percent to 50.6 percent), and has done so the last three seasons. While Gasol is a better passer, Bynum’s strengths in the primary statistics where centers should excel make him a better choice for the Lakers.
Note: If the Lakers had a decent point guard the assist numbers from Gasol would drop, making this aspect of the argument even stronger. That is an issue that should be addressed through any trade.
The main reason the Lakers need to hold onto Bynum and ship off Gasol is the fact that Bynum is seven years younger, which when counting time in the NBA as we do dog years is nearly an entire lifetime.
Gasol is 31 years old and Bynum is 24. While Bynum has had more health issues, notably his knees, this age gap has to be staring Lakers management in the face when talking about the future of the franchise.
With Kobe Bryant quickly approaching 50,000 minutes on his NBA odometer, owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak need to start thinking about whom to build the team around going forward. Their choice should be Bynum, at least until they can find someone else to replace him if his health takes a turn for the worse.
Though both Gasol and Bynum both measure in at 7’0” tall, Bynum has 35 pounds of muscle on Gasol. With players like Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard to battle in the post, that additional weight to throw around comes in handy.
One could make the opposite argument, that carrying around this additional weight is partially what has led to Bynum missing so many games in the past, but hopefully those issues are behind him. If Bynum can stay healthy his extra size will prove to be a valuable asset when fighting for position in the paint.
If he stays healthy.
Arguing for Bynum based on health may raise some eyebrows, since he has only played in all 82 games during the regular season once (his sophomore campaign of 2006-07), but age is a factor here.
Mileage adds up.
Gasol has played 31,244 minutes, while Bynum has only played 10,712. By only playing a third of what Gasol has in the NBA, Bynum should last longer. One big concern for the Lakers’ brass is the health of Bynum’s knees if they are considering shipping Gasol off to build a more consistent all-around team for Kobe Bryant.
If they do trade Gasol for a point guard they should look to get a decent power forward/center in return, just in case Bynum goes down with another injury. The Lakers bench would not fare well against other frontcourts around the league as it currently stands.
Simply put, Andrew Bynum has a brighter future than Pau Gasol.
Gasol is a highly skilled seven-footer, perhaps the most skilled in this select group at the moment, but Andrew Bynum has a much more promising future. There has been a slow transition during the last couple years, with Bynum’s production gradually catching up to Gasol’s, and this Bynum has finally eclipsed Gasol.
Currently, Bynum’s productivity overshadows Gasol’s in points, rebounds and blocks per game; however, more importantly, he costs less. In addition, Bynum is shooting better from the field.
Beyond the splitting hairs of differences in stats, qualitatively Bynum is a larger presence on the court.
If the Lakers are going to make a true push for another title while Kobe Bryant is still around they need to add at least a solid point guard to their lineup, though a consistent small forward would improve their chances significantly as well.