Lakers Rumors: Trading Pau Gasol to Raptors Would Be Best Strategy for LA

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 7, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star power forward Pau Gasol is not meshing well with the new Mike D'Antoni offense. That's no secret. With that, the future of Gasol has been subject to wild speculation and rumors.

The alleged most likely suitor is the Toronto Raptors, and the assets the team has to offer in return for Gasol's services make it the most viable trading partner and best strategy for Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

According to NBA Rumors, the Raptors are indeed the front-runners to acquire the two-time NBA champion from the City of Angels:

The Toronto Raptors are the most likely team to acquire Pau Gasol if the Los Angeles Lakers trade him, according to rival executives.

— NBA Rumors (@NBARUMORS) December 6, 2012

A report by ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne indicates that the Raptors would offer up former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, among other possibilities, in exchange for Gasol. The genesis of this notion was an extensive breakdown of Gasol's situation in L.A. by CBS' Ken Berger:

Sources say Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has shown no willingness to part with Bargnani, but if pressure mounts for him to bolster the team's youth movement and win now by adding a veteran with All-Star credentials like Gasol, that could change.

This makes the most sense for both sides, despite the fact that the Lakers are allegedly rejecting all trade possibilities before injured point guard Steve Nash returns to the lineup, according to Berger.

For Toronto, Gasol would give the team instant relevance in what has been a disappointing start to the year. Waiting too long may result in yet another lottery landing spot for the Raptors in the upcoming draft since they currently sit at 4-15, and that may cost Colangelo his job.

In the Lakers' case, no matter what Nash's return does to improve the chemistry, the team should just pull the trigger on the deal now. Gasol simply isn't a fit for D'Antoni's system due to the fact that he is a post player.

On the other hand, Bargnani has legitimate three-point range, and Calderon is an excellent distributor who would give the Lakers a much-needed boost at point guard.

Other than Nash, Steve Blake, Darius Morris and Chris Duhon are the only options on the roster.

As the Los Angeles Times reported recently, Blake will be out for six to eight weeks to surgically repair a nagging abdominal injury. That makes Calderon all the more valuable to L.A. because he has proven he can start in the NBA and can fill in until Nash returns.

Back to the direct impact of the seemingly illogical Gasol-for-Bargnani exchange, which is perceptibly very imbalanced.

Bargnani doesn't have the tendency to post up, which won't create any conflict in the lane with superstar center Dwight Howard. In the Lakers' fast-paced style of offense and perimeter-oriented scheme, the Raptors forward would be a matchup nightmare, especially with the talent surrounding him.

While the acquisition of Bargnani may diminish the team's defense, the presence of D12 in the paint should be adequate for L.A. to hold on the fort down on the interior.

Plus, Gasol's two sore knees are preventing him from getting to his spots and getting back on defense after the "Seven Seconds or Less" offensive rush is over. With Gasol's passing ability out of the post and the slower, half-court style of the Raptors, he and Kyle Lowry could significantly improve the team immediately, with the help of emerging SG DeMar DeRozan.

For both teams—and for Gasol himself—a move to Toronto is the best fit.