Most fans and analysts would agree that Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol is the most likely member on the Lakers roster to be dealt away, but there is no clear consensus on what player or players the Lakers might receive for the seven footer (ESPN).
I think that the Lakers should replace Gasol with a bevy of role players, or the Lakers should try to get as close to equal value as possible for Gasol's services.
Most opinions fall into one of these two categories, and each one can pretty much be summed up by this question: Are the Lakers trying to win right now or build toward the future?
Considering that future Hall of Fame shooting guard Kobe Bryant has a championship window that is quickly closing, (if it hasn't already) then the logical choice would be to replace Gasol with a player who has the same type of star ratio.
And when it comes to acquiring equal value for Gasol, the Lakers options are severely limited, but they do have options.
One of the more far-fetched scenarios involves a potential sign and trade deal for Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, which would immediately thrust the Lakers back into title contention and arguably give the franchise the league's top backcourt.
Williams would be an ideal catch for the Lakers because he excels at a position that has troubled the Lakers in the recent past, and he provides superstar youth to build around.
The Lakers cannot afford to sign the new free agent Williams out right, so in order to bring him to Los Angeles the Lakers must convince him and the Nets that a trade for Gasol is in both team's best interests.
And that's clearly not the case for the Lakers.
Los Angeles already has the highest payroll in the NBA, and while they would be erasing nearly $40 million from the books by disposing of Gasol, it's not like Williams will be much cheaper, if any. And what else will the Lakers lose while chasing Williams?
It would be great to have a lead guard like Williams running the show, but outside of Bryant and center Andrew Bynum how would the rest of the team look?
Signing either Williams or Howard might strain the Lakers finances even further and it would definitely make it nearly impossible to add any other key pieces, but that's not the case when it comes to Atlanta's Josh Smith.
Smith is the one player I have heard mentioned in trade rumors with the Lakers who actually gives Los Angeles a chance to acquire younger star power for Gasol, and at a discounted rate.
If this is true, then the Lakers would enter any negotiations with better leverage, and the potential to acquire another impact player like forward Marvin Williams or Kirk Hinrich in addition to Smith.
Any of the players mentioned above will make the Lakers a team capable of competing for a title next season, but can the same be said of the other rumors currently floating around?
Some fans have theorized that the Lakers should re-open talks with the Houston Rockets since that was Gasol's destination before commissioner David Stern decided he didn't want Chris Paul playing for the Lakers.
Instead of Paul this time, the Lakers would receive Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry, but the only similarity between this deal is the two players play the same position.
Lowry is a nice, serviceable player, but its doubtful that he can lead the Lakers back to the NBA Finals, and that goes for any other player Houston might include in a deal.
I'm sure that Lowry can hold his own against the west's elite point guards, but holding your own may not be enough when it comes to the likes of Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.
The Lakers need a point guard with the ability to win some of those battles, and while Lowry may be an upgrade over current Lakers starter Ramon Sessions, it's not really that significant.
Another rumor that has been circulating involves the Minnesota Timberwolves and a deal that might include Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams.
NBA.com reported that the Wolves were actively seeking to deal Williams to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, in order to present an enticing offer for Gasol to the Lakers.
The Bobcats used the pick to draft Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilcrist instead, so any Wolves offer going forward is likely to include Williams as a piece.
However, are there any players on the Wolves' roster who make the Lakers a stronger contender than they were last season besides Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, two players who are clearly off limits to Los Angeles?
Williams and Beasley clearly are talented and athletic and both have tons of potential, but right now the Lakers are in need of talent realized. Maybe Williams will blossom into a star, and there is a chance that Beasley can get his emotional house in order, but Kobe and the Lakers don't have the time to find out.
Right now, taking advantage of Kobe's final years should be the Lakers top priority, and any moves they make should reflect that.
I'm all for building a team that can compete down the road, but as far as Kobe is concerned, the future is right now, and I'm not sure if Beasley and Williams can handle that, unless the Lakers can manage to acquire a player like Smith as well.
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