In theory, Pau Gasol is still one of the finest power forwards in the NBA. For the Los Angeles Lakers, however, he is now the most valuable trading chip in the league.
Gasol struggled under Mike Brown, and those struggles have continued with Mike D'Antoni running the show. The lane just isn't big enough for both he and Dwight Howard to play the style they are comfortable with.
And Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times notes Gasol is the Laker most likely to get traded this season:
The Lakers have four major stars, but Kobe Bryant isn't going anywhere, Dwight Howard isn't going anywhere (they hope), and Steve Nash, once he's healthy, isn't going anywhere because he's the one to run Mike D'Antoni's offense.
That makes Pau Gasol the presumed odd man out, given his weighty contract and declining stats. He makes $19 million this season and, the big blow, $19.3 million next season, when luxury taxes increase dramatically in an effort to eliminate the obvious spending differences between big and small markets.
So he's good as gone, right Mike?
The Lakers aren't actively looking to trade Gasol right now, The Times has learned, because they want to see what happens when Nash returns from a small fracture in his leg.
Oh, I see.
Admittedly, it makes sense for the Lakers to keep Gasol until Nash returns. If these four players can find a way to thrive under D'Antoni's system, the Lakers would be nearly impossible to beat.
But let's be honest, here—does anyone actually see that happening?
Howard and Gasol aren't a good pair down low. If Gasol had a more proficient mid-range jumper, perhaps it would work. But he's averaging just 13.1 points per game, well below his career average.
And the Lakers desperately need someone, anyone who can shoot the rock from beyond the three-point line. A legitimate swing man should be on this team's wish list.
And you know there will be plenty of interest in Gasol around the league. On the right team, he's going to average 18 points and nine rebounds per game at least. Yes, he's 32 and toting around a large contract.
But this is the NBA, and somebody will be willing to take that on.
At some point, the Lakers are going to have to decide if this team as currently constructed is really built to win championships. Kobe may not like it, but moving Gasol for the right pieces in return could be the last step to ensuring the Lakers dominate the NBA for the next two seasons.
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