Lakers Rumors: Los Angeles Should Keep Pau Gasol Until End of Season

Austin GreenCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 28:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers blocks the shot of Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during a 104-87 win at Staples Center on December 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Pau Gasol's season has been a nightmare, but that doesn't mean the Los Angeles Lakers should deal their big man before February's trade deadline.

The Lakers have struggled this season, and Gasol has often been the scapegoat. Much of the criticism is deserved—he's averaging career lows in points (12.2 per game) and field goal percentage (41.2). He has struggled to fit in all year, and with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant not going anywhere soon, dealing Gasol would be the easiest way to shake things up.

However, as bad as Gasol has been, trading him in the middle of the season would be a terrible mistake.

First of all, insanely talented seven-footers don't come around too often. There's a very small number of guys that size who can make an athletic move like this. 

Despite his struggles, Gasol is still one of the most skilled big men in the league. He rebounds well, he's a great passer and he has a diverse offensive repertoire.

There aren't many legitimate back-to-the-basket scorers in the NBA, but Gasol is one of them. He has an array of post moves, he can finish with either hand and his mid-range jumper is usually money.

Also, Gasol hasn't been a good fit with Howard, but there's no guarantee that Howard will stay healthy throughout the year. He had back surgery in the spring, and as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, he may miss tonight's game with a shoulder injury.

Dwight Howard says he might not play tomorrow vs. DEN because of sprained right shoulder sustained vs. Clippers. #Lakers

— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 5, 2013

I'm expecting Gasol to play well in Howard's absence, and D12's injury history could be a major issue come playoff time. If he's unhealthy this spring, the Lakers will need Gasol in the lineup.

Gasol is also a sensitive star, and as his mood fluctuates, so does his performance. He has proven in the past that he can use his poor play as motivation. In the spring of 2010, Gasol was called "soft" on a regular basis.

When it mattered most, though, Gasol delivered. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals, he killed the Celtics, going for 19 points and 18 rebounds (nine offensive). I'm expecting him to regain some of that fire as the season progresses.

Lakers fans are frustrated with Gasol, and their feelings are understandable. But the simple truth is Gasol brings a highly unique skill set to the table, and the Lakers simply can't afford to trade him now.