The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. This was the second-straight second-round exit for the Lakers, as they were swept out of the playoffs last season by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks.
Such a fate in the playoffs is unacceptable in the eyes of the Lakers, and their fans and the trade chatter about who should go and who should stay will only get more intense as we near the start of the off-season on July 1.
A popular name that is mentioned frequently in trade talks is Pau Gasol.
Gasol was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. He helped the Lakers reach the Finals in three straight seasons and win the NBA Championship in 2009 and 2010. However, he is coming off of another poor playoff performance, averaging just 12 PPG and 9.5 RPG.
His 17 PPG and 10 RPG are solid numbers for an NBA player, but the 17 PPG were a career low and his 50-percent shooting from the field is also a career low.
He was officially demoted to the third option on offense this season, and appeared to play passively and almost seemed disinterested at other times. Because of his two-straight poor post-season performances, fans have been calling for him to be traded since the beginning of last off-season.
One team that has shown significant interest in Gasol has been the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are on the brink of becoming a playoff team, but have been decimated by injuries the past few seasons and lack a true star to carry them to the playoffs. Gasol would provide them with that star.
Would this trade help make the Lakers title contenders again?
Houston has a talented backcourt with Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin, and also has Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee coming off the bench. They acquired defensive-minded centers in Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby to anchor their interior defense, but neither provide the offensive abilities that Gasol does.
A potential deal that could bring him to Houston would involve the Rockets sending Luis Scola, Courtney Lee and a first-round pick to the Lakers in exchange for Gasol.
This trade helps the Rockets by giving them the low-post scorer they have lacked since Yao Ming retired and provides them with a battle-tested big man with championship experience to lead their young players.
A core of Lowry, Martin and Gasol would make them perennial playoff contenders and they might even win a playoff series.
While this team would not win a championship, they would consistently be in the playoffs, which is their goal for right now.
For the Lakers, this trade makes them younger and much more athletic. Luis Scola would step into Gasol's spot at power forward and provide the Lakers with an energetic forward who goes all out all the time.
Scola is a good rebounder for his size and can also score in the post and shoot the mid-range jumper. He would be an excellent complement to the bruising Andrew Bynum down low.
Lee would provide the Lakers with much needed depth and scoring off the bench. He is incredibly athletic and would provide LA with a speed boost off the bench and help them keep up with the more athletic teams in the NBA such as the Thunder, Nuggets and Heat.
This trade would be mutually beneficial, as the Rockets get the player they have coveted for years now, and the Lakers get younger and more athletic as well as getting a draft pick to add another young piece to their core.