One of the biggest question marks for the Los Angeles Lakers is the role of Pau Gasol. There are a lot of options, but the worst decision would be to take him out of the starting lineup.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers are considering that option when he returns from his current knee injury:
The Lakers are debating whether to bring Pau Gasol off the bench when he returns from knee tendinitis, said a person familiar with the team's thinking. The Lakers are trying to decide how a demotion to the bench would affect Gasol. If they determined it would be adverse, they'd keep him in the starting lineup.
This would be way too much risk for a team that is incredibly talented.
Gasol has been one of the most skilled big men in the NBA over the past 10 years. He's averaged at least 17 points per game in every year of his career, and he's averaged a double-double in each of the last three seasons.
His best skill is scoring with his back to the basket using excellent post moves. The issue is that this ability does not fit into new coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced system.
However, bringing him off the bench would not improve these problems.
In that situation, Gasol would not be able to get into a rhythm on offense and wait for his shot, which means his skill would be completely wasted.
The best bench players are usually perimeter scorers that can create a lot of shots for themselves in a short amount of time on the floor. Gasol does not fit that profile as much as teammates Antawn Jamison or Jodie Meeks.
Gasol off the bench would not be any better than a generic big man.
In addition, the team needs the veteran's defense as much as possible. Jamison, who's replaced Gasol in the starting lineup, has never been known as a good defender throughout his career.
So, such a move could end up being costly in the high-scoring Western Conference.
It is certainly possible that the team decides that the All-NBA forward simply does not fit in the future plans. If this is the case, trading him would create more value for the Lakers than reducing his role. In that case, Los Angeles should find a way to acquire someone who better fits D'Antoni's scheme.
Bob Finnan of the Cleveland News-Herald thinks a trade is inevitable. He said in a recent column:
The Lakers will eventually have to trade forward/center Pau Gasol. It could happen in the offseason. Despite what was said recently, the Timberwolves would like to get their hands on Gasol. They'd play him at center.
It is unknown what the Lakers would get in return, but it is important to find value out of this situation. Otherwise, Los Angeles will be left with a very expensive misuse of talent.