Trading Pau Gasol Not the Cure-All Solution for L.A. Lakers to Correct Course

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Trading Pau Gasol Not the Cure-All Solution for L.A. Lakers to Correct Course
Harry How/Getty Images

Trading Pau Gasol won't do much for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not much at all.

When it came to potentially acquiring Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or even Rajon Rondo, there was a case to be made that the Lakers had plenty of reasons to ship out the declining big man.

Now, however, what would the reasoning behind exploring such a move be? That he's too old? Too slow? Too expensive? 

Well, I've got news for crowd that wants Gasol ousted: None of the above is true.

I'll admit that at 32, it's unlikely the towering forward begins setting career highs in every measurable category. But that doesn't mean he's too old. Even in the midst of what was considered a horrible 2011-12 campaign, the aging Gasol still managed to post 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds on 50.1 percent shooting from the floor.

How many young guns can lay claim to such a feat? Very few.

Better yet, can Josh Smith—the player many critics would deal Gasol for in a heartbeat—say he did the same? His 18.8 points per game last season say yes, but his 9.6 rebounds and 45.8 percent shooting from the field say otherwise.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Trading Gasol for Smith wouldn't change much.

How about Gasol being too slow?

Mike D'Antoni would be the first to admit the power forward isn't the most athletic of bigs, but he was also one of the first to acknowledge (via Janis Carr of The Orange County Register) that there is a place for him in the coach's system:

First of all, when Dwight goes out, he's a great center. You cannot find a center to do what he does for 14 minutes. That is super positive, D'Antoni said. And with Dwight (on the floor), he (Gasol) shoots the ball all the way out to the 3(-point arc). He's another 7-footer who can guard the rim and he's extremely smart.

So let's put an end to all the "too slow" business now. Gasol is one of the most mobile bigs in the game. If D'Antoni didn't feel he could succeed within a run-and-gun attack, he would say something.

Now, as for Gasol being too expensive, the $38.3 million he's owed over the next two seasons would imply there is a case to be made. But there really isn't.

Was Pau too slow here?

Whether or not we believe the Spaniard deserves that money is irrelevant. Like completely irrelevant. What matters is what the Lakers would have to take back in exchange.

From there, it becomes clear that trading Pau is anything but a cure-all for a struggling Los Angeles team. Not only would it be hard-pressed to get comparable production in return, but just think of the financially fatal contracts the team would have to take back.

We scoff at the notion of an Amar'e Stoudemire for Gasol swap, yet that's exactly the type of annual salary and genre of pact the Lakers will have to take on just to make a deal work financially. How would jumping at such an opportunity to add statistical and financial liabilities help them now, or even later?

Understandably, Los Angeles wants to contend now; its roster is built to win now. However, trading the elder big man doesn't necessarily further its ultimate cause.

Assuming the Lakers are willing to take back the bloated contracts it would take to make a trade go through, what would such a deal do to their future plans?

Remember, this is a team that plans to chase LeBron James in two years, and Gasol's contract comes off the books just in time for them to engage is said pursuit. Someone else's contract, however, may not.

At that point, can the Lakers really justify jeopardizing their future blueprint at the prospect of possibly improving their immediate title chances ever so slightly?

No, they can't.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Trading Gasol may dictate the Lakers take back a contract like Stoudemire's in return.

But let's say they don't care. Let's say the Lakers are amenable to taking on whatever contracts necessary in an attempt to maximize Gasol's trade value. What then? What exactly does that solve?

Most likely nothing.

The situation wold be different if Gasol was as an inept as Andris Biedrins, as one-dimensional as Andre Bargnani or as injury-prone as Andrew Bynum. But he's not.

For the better part of a decade, Gasol has been a symbol for two-way consistency; he's been a foundational pillar for which to build a title contender around.

This is a guy who has been selected to four All-Star Games and has never averaged under 17 points per game for an entire season. That's not the type of player you just ship out because of some statistical struggles. Not when he's come close to producing at his career clip for the past two years despite such shortcomings.

Instead, Gasol is a player you look at and ask: Why?

Why is he struggling? Is it his age or is it systematic?

After looking at the numbers, it won't take a genius to realize it's the latter.

Graph courtesy of chartgo.com.

Of the 12.1 shots Gasol is currently taking per game, 53.7 percent of them are coming from outside of nine feet, up from the 46.8 percent clip from last season.

Considering that less than 30 percent of his total field-goal attempts were coming from that distance when he first arrived in Hollywood, that's a problem. And considering that he has connected on 56 percent of his attempts inside that distance over the last six years, it's an even bigger problem.

Would trading Pau Gasol really solve the Lakers' current struggles?

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No wonder Gasol is having such difficulty attempting to score. He's being asked to play outside his comfort zone, and that's rarely ever a good thing.

Which means it's time for D'Antoni and the Lakers to make adjustments, not cure a lingering problem by attempting to escape it; it's time for the Lakers to try and remedy the situation, not try and circumvent it.

Such logic makes even more sense considering Dwight Howard is struggling to remain aggressive as he learns the ropes of this offense as well. Is trading Pau magically going to cure his demerits as well?

Again, not at all. Making the necessary adjustments and exuding patience, however, will.

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
When utilized properly, Gasol can still make a substantial contribution.

So no, trading Gasol is not a cure-all for these Lakers, and discussing such a possibility is merely an excuse, one that overshadows the true issue at hand.

And the actual issue facing the Lakers is that they need more time. They need to alter their course of attack even more to fit the needs of each key component.

That's been the issue all along, and it will still be the issue once Steve Nash returns. 

And it will continue to hold true long after the Lakers believe they are whole again.

Whether that be with or without Gasol.

 

 

Stats from this article are accurate as of November 28th, 2012.

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