Are the Rockets the Frontrunners in a Pau Gasol Trade with the Lakers?

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Are the Rockets the Frontrunners in a Pau Gasol Trade with the Lakers?
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The Los Angeles Lakers and General Manager Mitch Kupchak are facing some big decisions this upcoming offseason.

This is becoming a recurring theme for the Lakers management, as the team was ousted from the playoffs in the second round for the second consecutive year.

Last year, Lakers management did not make any major moves to their starting lineup, but instead relied on minor changes, such as adding role players to the bench and trading for point guard Ramon Sessions. With a hugely disappointing bench and the marginal impact that Sessions made to the Lakers as a whole, one thing is for sure this offseason—a major change to the roster is coming to Los Angeles.

Pau Gasol had an interesting season. Mike Brown moved him on offense to the high-post, and relied on Andrew Bynum to cover the low-post. In doing this, Bynum took over Gasol's previous position as the Lakers' second option, behind Kobe Bryant.

Along with this position change, Gasol's game changed as he became less aggressive on the offensive side of the court. His averages took a slight dip, but he still remained among the league's leaders in rebounding.

However, his game and overall presence faded further away in the playoffs, which echoed what happened to him during last year's playoffs.

It seems Gasol's tenure with the Lakers has run its course and it's time to make a move for future success.

While everyone under the sun is trying to find ways to bring in Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, realistically these are very difficult trades to pull off. Don't get me wrong, as a Laker fan I would love to see Williams in the purple and gold.

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However, the Brooklyn Nets do not want Gasol and have made that pretty clear. Therefore, to get Williams in LA through a Gasol trade, Williams would have to first tell the Nets that he wants to go only to LA. Then, a third team would have to come to the table to pull off a three-team trade. It is possible, but three-team deals are very complicated.

With Dwight Howard, the same idea goes since it seems the Orlando Magic would only talk if Andrew Bynum was on the table. Additionally, the Lakers would not be interested in Howard unless he declares that he would extend his contract with the Lakers in order to remain in LA for a long period. Howard has said he won't do this for LA, so unless he changes his mind, this trade seems unlikely.

The trade that seems quite clean-cut and possible is very familiar to the Lakers.

This deal would involve the Houston Rockets and essentially the same players involved in the first Lakers/Houston trade, minus the New Orleans Hornets, that was famously nixed by David Stern.

The players swap would include Pau Gasol for Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. The Rockets seem to still want Gasol and are willing to seriously talk with the Lakers. Although Scola is not a favorite among the Laker fanbase, I believe the fans would warm up to him if he is in purple and gold.

Scola could bring the European-style of play that Gasol has made familiar in LA. Even though Gasol is more skilled and talented on the offensive end, Scola would bring more aggression on defense.

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Kevin Martin would be an absolute great addition to the Lakers, as he is one of the more underrated players in the league in my opinion. His is a solid scorer who can add depth and stretch the floor for the Lakers, which is a dire need this offseason.

Martin could be added as a reserve, which any Laker fan would agree that the bench must be improved, or Kobe could switch to the three spot with Martin as the shooting guard.

No matter what deal(s) goes down this summer, the Lakers must aim to get equal value out of Pau Gasol. While Gasol's time in LA looks to be over, he is still one of the versatile big men of the league and has played a major role in bringing two championships to the Lakers.

With the new CBA and luxury tax restrictions, Kupchak and the Lakers need to make smart moves that improve the team to restore their status as a top contender in the NBA for years to come. 

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