According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Lakers have had conversations with Pau Gasol about his struggles in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system. The bottom line of the conversation was simple.
Adjust or be traded.
...a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has recently spoken to Gasol’s representatives and the gist of the conversation was that if Gasol is unable to adjust to D’Antoni’s system, the team will have no choice but to search for possible trade scenarios.
Although this could be classified as speculation, this is shaping up to become an inevitability. Reserves are thriving in D'Antoni's system, Gasol is shooting a career-low 42.0 percent from the floor and his abilities are being neutralized by the offensive design.
In other words, Gasol is better off on another team. The question is, are the Lakers better off without him?
Time to weigh the pros and cons.
Pau Gasol may be one of the greatest players of this generation, but he's also one of the worst fits possible for Coach D'Antoni's offensive set. This comes by virtue of his low-post brilliance being neutralized by a role as a spot-up shooter.
It's unfortunate but true that jump shooting is his primary function.
By trading Gasol, the Lakers would almost certainly find a player that is a better fit for the D'Antoni system. Players such as Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Hornets and Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks are solid examples of what the Lakers need.
An elite jump shooter or an athletic transition threat who can run with Steve Nash. Not a skilled big who needs to be in the post.
Not in a D'Antoni system.
Pau Gasol may be in the midst of an underwhelming season, but that doesn't change what he is capable of when placed in the proper situations. Keep in mind, when Gasol worked in Phil Jackson's Triangle offense he was not the tertiary scoring option.
By trading Gasol, the team will end up losing one of the most dominant low-post players in NBA history. With his ability to both facilitate and score with his back to the basket, Gasol has carved out a reputation as a four-time All-Star.
That and his status as one of the greatest international products of all-time.
Through 17 games, Pau Gasol is shooting 50.0 percent from the floor during the first quarter. That number dips to 40.6 percent in the second quarter and just 34.9 percent from the floor during the second half.
Most specifically, an underwhelming 37.9 percent during the fourth quarter.
Adversely, Antawn Jamison is shooting 46.9 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter. For that reason, it is fair to infer that the Lakers are a better team during the final period of play when Jamison is on the floor as opposed to Gasol.
With less than three minutes, Jamison is shooting 83.3 percent from the floor and 75.0 percent from beyond the arc. The numbers speak volumes.
Contrary to popular belief, the Los Angeles Lakers are performing at a much higher level with Pau Gasol on the floor than without him. Even if his individual production is disappointing at best, there is no way around the most important numbers.
The Lakers have a net rating of plus-8.8 with Gasol on the floor and minus-2.4 without him. That's a difference of 10.4 points for those keeping count.
With Gasol, the Lakers' offensive rating sits at 107.3. Without him, that number dips to 99.8.
Said numbers are met by an average of 103.9 points per 48 minutes with Pau and 94.6 without him. Tack on 95.8 points allowed per 48 when Gasol is on the floor and 101.3 when he is on the bench.
Need we go on?
One final statistic for the eager minds is as follows. When Gasol is active and on the floor, the Lakers are shooting 47.3 percent from the floor. When he is not, they are going 42.4 percent.
The Lakers are better with Gasol.
In Pau Gasol's first game while sidelined by injury, Jordan Hill played 14 minutes and put up nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks. This came after playing four minutes or less in three of his previous five games.
It's safe to say that Gasol's absence will lead to more opportunities for Hill to thrive. That is, if head coach Mike D'Antoni will allow him to do so.
When granted the opportunity to play, Hill is a fierce rebounder and an occasionally dominant defender. Considering the Lakers are in dire need of a player with both of those traits, how could one not express excitement over Hill's abilities?
Ask D'Antoni, as he's clearly not buying in to the obvious. The Lakers benefit greatly from Hill's presence.
Although the absence of Pau Gasol may create more opportunities for Jordan Hill, there is no way around the positive impact each has upon one another. In fact, each of the two players perform better with one another on the floor.
Don't believe it? Check the numbers.
Hill has posted averages of 15.9 points, 14.2 rebounds and 7.3 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes with Gasol on the floor. When Pau is on the bench, however, Hill numbers dip to just 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.7 free-throw attempts per 36.
The same can be said for Gasol.
With Hill on the floor, the Spaniard has posted averages of 12.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.6 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes. With Hill riding the pine, however, Gasol's numbers shift to 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.3 free-throw attempts per 36.
The Lakers also have a plus-minus rating of plus-16.5 per 36 minutes with the duo together. Why break that up?
Jodie Meeks could use some help in the three-point department.
Who the Los Angeles Lakers would target in a Pau Gasol trade is solely speculative. With Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style of play and heavy reliance on the three-point shot, however, one can only imagine that a sharpshooter would be involved in the deal.
Which is exactly what the Lakers need. Desperately.
For every game in which the Lakers go off from beyond the arc, there will be another in which they discover how Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace do not specialize in said area. For that reason, there will be more than a handful of outings in which the duo shoot a poor percentage from beyond the arc.
Even as Jodie Meeks is expected to thrive from beyond the arc, relying too heavily on one player is never the proper route to take.
Gasol is still capable of performing at an All-Star level and possesses a contract which expires in 2014. This suggests that his trade value could enable the Lakers to land sharpshooters with expiring contracts.
In other words, the Lakers could acquire the help they should have from the start. Better late than never, eh?
Jordan Hill's potential for an increase in playing time was documented. As was that for Antawn Jamison.
Even the smooth shooting and athletically gifted Earl Clark could get in on the action.
The question is, would the minute distribution actually improve? Chances are, no it would not. Not if Pau Gasol is being replaced with an equally dominant 4.
So temper those expectations.
Believe it or not, organizational integrity actually plays a role in decision-making. When it comes to trading Pau Gasol, there is no better way to display that than to present him with the opportunity to play for a coach who will maximize his low-post abilities.
After all, we've all come to learn that D'Antoni won't do that.
Gasol has given all he possibly could to the Los Angeles Lakers, including two consecutive NBA championships. The least that L.A. could do is reward him with a trade that benefits both parties, as the Lakers improve as a team and Gasol finds a better scheme to play in.
That shouldn't be too hard considering few coaches would deny an elite low-post player the opportunity to work near the basket.
Fans who have just taken notice of the Los Angeles Lakers or the NBA as a whole may not know who Pau Gasol is. They may see him struggle under Mike D'Antoni and witness his disappearing acts during the 2011-12 NBA postseason, but they don't know Pau.
The Lakers organization does, which is why they'd be so reluctant to let him go.
Gasol is one of the Top 5 low-post players in the NBA. Few, if any, are as proficient with the ball in their hands on the low block, which is why Gasol is considered to be one of the most skilled bigs in NBA history.
That includes the fact that Gasol may just be the best passer of any player at the power forward or center positions.
In allowing Gasol to walk, the Lakers would have fully committed to D'Antoni's system and neutralized the advantage of having two elite interior scorers. Although they could replace Gasol with another big, there's a slim chance they'd find one who could play the complementary role as well as Gasol.
That comes by virtue of his passing, scoring, rebounding and defensive skills.
Gasol is the complete package at power forward. Although he must be more aggressive, the chemistry developed between him and Dwight Howard could potentially lead the team to an NBA championship.
Just not in D'Antoni's system.