L.A. Lakers: Why Gasol for Smith Makes More Sense Than Bynum for Howard

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 14, 2012

ATLANTA - MARCH 31:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks defends against Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Philips Arena on March 31, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets' decision to sign center Brook Lopez to an extended contract may have ended the their hopes of pairing Dwight Howard with Deron Williams, but it sure didn't stop the rampant speculation concerning Howard's eventual landing price.

According to ESPN.com the Houston Rockets appear to have the upper hand in the race to retain Howard's services, but this report by Orlando-area sportscaster David Pingalore strongly suggests that Howard will go to the Lakers.

So, to recap, the only thing we know for certain is Howard will not be going to Brooklyn, but there seems to be hope for the legions of Lakers fans who have been praying for a Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash marriage.

I am also intrigued by the prospects of Howard in a Lakers uniform, but that doesn't mean I think it's the best deal for the Lakers to make.

That designation is reserved for the rumored Pau Gasol-for-Josh Smith trade that in reality should have already been done.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta Hawks approached the Lakers about the possibility of swapping Smith for Gasol, but the Lakers turned the Hawks down because they felt the deal should have included more than Smith in return.

It's very rare when a team gets the opportunity to shed a large contract from an aging star player and receive a younger star of almost equal value in return. But the Lakers were afforded that chance and astoundingly turned it down.

Maybe it's time for general manager Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers to revisit the scenario.

Smith doesn't come with Howard's superstar reputation, but he does have many of the same attributes such as strength, athleticism and quickness.

More importantly Smith may be a better option for coach Mike Brown's offensive scheme.

If the Lakers do deal Bynum for Howard then they will likely be confronted by the same dilemma in the post that confounded them last season.

Brown's decision to emphasize Bynum as the Lakers' primary post scorer forced Gasol to play more on the perimeter, and while Gasol does have the ability to play outside of the paint, he is still more comfortable playing near the rim.

New point guard Steve Nash could relieve some of this tension with his play-making ability, but he still can't turn Gasol into a perimeter-oriented player.

Smith is no perimeter player, but he does transition more comfortably and athletically between the post and the three point line, and unlike Gasol Smith can easily get to the rim off his dribble.

Brown's vision of a fast-paced offensive attack is better realized with Smith releasing on the wing in the open court than with Gasol, but the best part about a potential deal is the money Los Angeles can save in the process.

The Lakers would rid themselves of Gasol's nearly $40 million contract, while actually saving nearly $6 million by acquiring Smith, whose $13 million contract expires following next season.

I feel pretty confident that the Lakers could convince Smith to re-sign at a cheaper rate than they pay Gasol now, and certainly whatever Howard would eventually demand.

And the money saved might allow the Lakers to improve other areas of their team such as the bench.

It would be silly to think any Lakers fans would be disappointed if the team managed to acquire Howard in the near future, but a deal for Smith would still be a better move in terms of the roster, and the team's finances.