Rumor has it that the Los Angeles Lakers were offered a trade in the offseason that would have netted them talented Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith but cost GM Mitch Kupchak four-time All-Star Pau Gasol.
Kupchak and the Lakers were right to reject the deal, which was reported by Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, who also included what he would offer if L.A. could orchestrate a trade involving the two players right now:
Gasol and Chris Duhon ($3.5 million) for Atlanta power forward Josh Smith ($13.2 million) and point guard Devin Harris ($8.5 million).
The Hawks called this summer to inquire about a Smith-for-Gasol trade.
The Lakers said no thanks.
They would probably be a lot more receptive now.
Here's the biggest reason Gasol wasn't expendable: He was such a key cog in two NBA championship teams. Preseason expectations firmly dictated a championship-or-bust discourse about the 2012-13 season since the Lakers added superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the roster.
How would it make any sense to trade off one of the game's premier power forwards for what would essentially be a player who has never played to his full potential nor passed the second round of the playoffs?
This is a classic case of hindsight being 20/20. Until the Hawks' exceptional start to this season and the Lakers' implosion, it wouldn't have been possible for L.A. to justify a Gasol-Smith swap.
Even now, it seems ridiculous. Gasol hasn't had any time to acclimate to a completely new offensive scheme and hasn't been able to play with Nash. It has been emphasized by Ric Bucher that Nash came to Los Angeles largely because of the opportunity to play with Gasol.
Now that Nash's former head coach, Mike D'Antoni, is manning the bench for the Lakers, the situation has gotten even better. The problem is, Nash has been injured for all but one-and-a-half games, and Gasol is out.
Translation: The jury is still largely out on this Lakers team, and Gasol isn't going anywhere until at least February's trade deadline. By then, he will have had time to find his niche within D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" system—the very scheme that led Nash to his two NBA MVP awards with the Phoenix Suns.
Should the Lakers have traded Pau Gasol for Josh Smith this offseason?
Bolch tries to make the case that the duo didn't produce a single win in the eight-and-a-half games both were on the court. However, that was the preseason, which typically does nothing to indicate how the real season will play out.
Thus, any notion that Nash's and Gasol's lackluster showings before the real games began justified a trade has to be null and void.
Gasol is also not a big personality, which Smith undoubtedly is. Imagine a locker room filled with Howard, Smith, Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant. That sounds like a catastrophic combination to me, especially if the team were off to a similar 10-14 start.
It's time to shut the trade talk off—just as the Lakers did this offseason—until Gasol gets his fair shake on the court.