Pau Gasol for Josh Smith Is Still a Good Deal for the Lakers and the Hawks

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer INovember 24, 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

Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports recently wrote about Kobe Bryant's comments about Pau Gasol and his tendency to loaf up the court. While rushing to defend Gasol, Dwyer only fueled the false perceptions about the team's struggles.

Dwyer, like the rest of the people who analyze and dissect the Lakers, seems to think that once Steve Nash returns, the offense will immediately be healed and Gasol's awkwardness in the offensive scheme will suddenly disappear.

Well, that's not going to happen, even if Nash's return signals a rebirth of his Phoenix days, because Gasol's role in the offense is perimeter-oriented.

I'm sure that Gasol would love more shot attempts closer to the basket, but that's the area where Dwight Howard roams. While Mike D'Antoni could incorporate a few plays for Gasol in the paint, there are still the obvious concerns about spacing on the floor.

Even if the offense improves when Nash returns and Gasol is able to raise his career-low 43 percent shooting from the field, the argument about offense misses the point, and so does Dwyer's argument against Atlanta forward Josh Smith.

In a final jab at Lakers fans who have voiced a desire to unite Smith with Howard, Dwyer mentions that Smith's shooting percentage is lower than Gasol's, saying that the Lakers would essentially be replacing a bad shooter for a worse shooter.

You would think that at some point someone would at least mention the importance of defense in relation to an NBA title.

Defense has been curiously absent from most of the discussions about the Lakers, which is odd because the game boiled down to one of its simplest levels is preventing the opposition from scoring more points than you.

Of course, on the other hand, scoring more points than your opponent is the other part of the equation. But at some point, a team with NBA Finals' aspirations will have to prove it can get a stop at a pivotal moment.

How can the Lakers prove that if defense is not a major part of D'Antoni's agenda?

Good defense is definitely part instinct and part ability, but there needs to be some schematic theory in your approach as well.

Maybe defense is hidden somewhere in D'Antoni's return-to-Showtime approach, but Smith is the type of player who could bring that thought from the shadows.

Before Nash and Howard made their way to Los Angeles, there were rumors of a proposed deal from Atlanta that involved swapping Smith for Gasol, but the Lakers declined for reasons unknown.

Since then, Atlanta's front office has changed and general manager Danny Ferry seems committed to keeping Smith on board. But there has been no statements coming from Smith.

The only thing we know for sure is Smith is not going to sign the Hawks' contract extension and seems destined to test his value on the free agent market.

Smith's contract expires at the end of this season, and Atlanta finds itself in the familiar position of being forced to make a decision soon about Smith or risk losing him for nothing after the season.

Gasol's $19 million contract is an imposing figure, but it could work for the Hawks because it expires after the 2013-14 season, and it would free up plenty of money to build around Al Horford.

The move would allow  Horford to shift back to his comfort zone as a power forward, and it would allow Gasol to move closer to the basket.

The Lakers would finally have a player in Smith who could run with Nash in transition and get back to challenge opponents at the rim on defense.

Smith may not be able to stretch the floor with his perimeter shot, but he does have the quickness, athleticism and mobility to get to the rim off his dribble and finish with authority when he gets there.

But Smith's defensive ability is what the Lakers need right now. Until D'Antoni understands that the concept of defense is more than throwing the ball out and instructing his players to defend, it doesn't matter how much the Lakers improve on offense.

Defense still wins championships, and at the very least a Smith-for-Gasol swap would pay lip service to the thought that D'Antoni is even remotely interested in the concept of defense.