Dwight Howard to Lakers: Should They Re-Visit a Pau Gasol-for-Josh Smith Trade?

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Dwight Howard to Lakers: Should They Re-Visit a Pau Gasol-for-Josh Smith Trade?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have had an offseason that rivals LeBron James' infamous decision of 2010 that led him to the sunny shores of South Beach by adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to their roster.

But is their team finally complete?

It certainly would appear so.

The Lakers added star power by bringing in Nash and Howard, but they also solidified their reserve corps by signing Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison in deals that received much less publicity.

Los Angeles has managed to address every major team concern this summer, and right now it has to be considered a very strong contender to reach the 2012-13 NBA Finals, so why should the Lakers be greedy, right?

At this point, any criticism of the Lakers current roster would be nitpicking or hate, but the lack of overall team athleticism might be a concern.

And if the Lakers really want to address it, they could re-visit a trade scenario that virtually fell into their laps at the time.

The Los Angeles Times previously reported that the Atlanta Hawks were interested in swapping forward Josh Smith for Pau Gasol, and adding Howard to the Lakers roster could breathe new life into the discussion.

It's no secret that Howard and Smith maintain a close relationship that dates back to their days as AAU players in Atlanta, and the NBA landscape has changed dramatically with Howard going to Los Angeles.

The Hawks killed the Smith-for-Gasol deal because they felt the Lakers were asking for too much in return for Gasol. Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry instead decided to keep Smith and purge his roster of high salaries, in an assumed bid to lure Howard to Atlanta.

Ferry jettisoned Joe Johnson and his $90 million contract as well as Marvin Williams and his horrible contract, but now the Hawks have plenty of salary cap space and no real targets for the future.

Of course, theoretically, the Hawks could still land Howard once he enters free agency after the 2012-13 season, but it's difficult to picture Howard leaving a better team, more money and more security to accept a deal with Atlanta.

And it's equally difficult to imagine Smith extending his time in Atlanta unless Ferry manages to pry away an equally disgruntled star from his current team.

So, Ferry may be willing to re-open talks with the Lakers rather than risk losing Smith for nothing, but should the Lakers be interested?

In previous articles, I was an advocate for a Gasol-Smith swap because I felt it would be a tremendous first step toward bringing Howard to Los Angeles, but with Howard firmly in the fold, I'm not so sure.

Smith would definitely upgrade the Lakers' athleticism, and Howard and Smith would be a fearsome duo in the paint, but I'm not convinced they would be better than Gasol and Howard.

Smith is younger, more athletic and arguably a better defensive player than Gasol, but that's about it.

Gasol is bigger than Smith, a better scorer and an equal rebounder, but more importantly, he may be the smartest player at his position in the NBA. It also doesn't hurt that Gasol shares the court with two other basketball brainiacs in Kobe Bryant and Nash, which gives the Lakers an on-court brain trust few other teams can match.

In this case, Gasol's intelligence and experience may trump Smith's athleticism, but that doesn't mean the Lakers shouldn't listen if the Hawks come calling.

On paper, the Lakers have a roster that appears ready to challenge for an NBA title tomorrow, but no one will really know how all of the team's new parts will mesh until they hit the court.

However, the NBA's trade deadline could serve as a reprieve for the Lakers if the marriage of Gasol and Howard doesn't go as expected.

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