Pau Gasol: Why the Los Angeles Lakers Should Trade Him Only for a Star

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IFebruary 14, 2017

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Most fans and observers of the Los Angeles Lakers agree that the chances of forward Pau Gasol returning next season are pretty slim.

Ask any of those people where Gasol might land if traded and what the Lakers will get in return, though, and the waters get a little murkier.

Most of the speculation has centered around big-name free agents like Deron Williams and the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, but some people have theorized that the Lakers may opt to add roster pieces rather than an established star.

But will roster pieces bring the Lakers any closer to their ultimate goal of securing another championship?

I'm all for building for the future, but Kobe Bryant's diminishing title window denies the Lakers that luxury.

And there are not many pieces that other teams have to offer that measure up to the whole of Gasol's ability, especially when Andrew Bynum is added to the equation.

I know Bynum and Gasol's supposed interior advantage never materialized in the 2012 NBA playoffs—or the regular season for that matter—but plenty of that had to do with the pains of adjusting to the system of new head coach Mike Brown.

And the rest of it may have been because Brown had no idea how to use the two 7-footers to his advantage.

A few down screens to free Gasol in the paint wouldn't have hurt.

Instead of Brown's finding a way to utilize Gasol's incredible size and talent in the paint, he essentially turned the Spaniard into a perimeter player, which negated his skill in the interior.

People love to marvel over Gasol's ability to play away from the basket, but this past season served as a cold reminder that he is still only a big man with some perimeter skills.

Gasol is no Dirk Nowitzki, but he didn't need to be in helping the Lakers reach three consecutive NBA Finals and win two straight championships.

Even after being demoted to the third offensive option, behind Bryant and Bynum, Gasol still managed to average 17 points and 10.4 rebounds and shoot 50.1 percent from the field during the 2011-12 season.

Can any potential pieces the Lakers get in return for Gasol guarantee that type of production on a consistent basis?

The only reason I can see the Lakers trading Gasol for anything less than a star is to shed his $19.8 million salary.

But that concept is in direct conflict with the Lakers' proven formula of postseason success.

In fact, the Lakers have tried the pieces approach in their recent history, and it didn't quite work out.

The Lakers had many memorable names and personalities that blew through Los Angeles after Magic Johnson led the team to the NBA Finals in 1991, but none of them could ever carry the team back, until Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant arrived.

Those two acquisitions signaled a re-commitment of the franchise's blueprint of signing top talent to remain competitive. Some of those adventures didn't work out (cf. Gary Payton, Karl Malone), but Gasol was one of those gambles that did.

So, why turn the clock back when the rest of the NBA is moving forward?

If the Lakers choose to replace Gasol, they need to receive a player who has the potential to be an integral piece to the Lakers' future and to give the team a chance to reach the NBA Finals next year.

The only players who could conceivably do that are Howard and Williams, and if the Lakers can't acquire them, why not stick it out with Gasol?

Gasol is not as bad as his last two postseasons suggest, and there is a slight chance that Brown has devised a scheme that better reflects his skill set.

Fans may not think they can stand another season of Gasol's un-inspired, passive play, but what if the alternative is a return to the days of Nick Van Exel and Cedric Ceballos?