Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak
With losses mounting and the Lakers perhaps requiring some new blood to help turn around the unit’s fortunes, many think the team will be able to pull off another blockbuster trade to help right the ship. There’s just one thing: Don’t count on it.
Mitch Kupchak rightfully earned some praise during the summer because he figured out how to acquire Dwight Howard and Steve Nash while only losing Andrew Bynum in the process. However, the moves just haven’t panned out as evidenced by the team’s record, and thus the roster might need to be reshaped to make the parts fit better and also meet the requirements of Mike D’Antoni.
Given Kupchak’s track record, one might expect him to orchestrate a monumental trade to change the Lakers’ fortunes and make them an instant contender.
There’s just one problem: It’s not going to happen.
Kobe Bryant is an awesome talent and unquestionably a top-five player in today’s NBA, but let’s be honest, he isn’t going anywhere. At this point in his career, an argument could be made that no one in the history of the franchise is better suited to carry the title of Mr. Laker than Bean. Considering his age, prestige, contract and no-trade clause, he will be a member of the Lakers organization for life. In other words, he is not a tradable asset.
Steve Nash, on the other hand, could help out some team in desperate need of a point guard, but considering that he just recently came back from a fractured leg and that he is 38 years old, it seems almost ludicrous to anticipate that a team would give up any good or potentially great assets for a player that will retire within the next three seasons at the most.
And then there’s Dwight Howard.
He is still far from being the player he was two seasons ago because his back injury still affects his mobility. Granted, he is still productive on the court, but his impact on defense has been severely limited, and that could potentially scare off any suitor that would even consider trading for him.
Also, given how destructive D12 has shown to be in recent seasons, it stands to reason that the Lakers would probably only trade him for, say, Kevin Durant or LeBron James, neither of which is happening. And keep in mind, even if Kupchak temporarily sustained a head injury that prompted him to trade Howard, because he is a free agent at the end of this season, no rival general manager would give up excellent pieces for a player that could potentially walk away at season’s end.
People forget this now, but Gasol was one of the most important pieces to the Lakers’ title runs in the 2009 and 2010 postseasons. His passing coupled with his post game made him a premier low-post player. Most believe that the Gasol we saw in those playoffs is gone, but we saw him dominate the United States frontline in the 2012 Olympics with his post play.
Hence, Gasol has the ability to be that player once again, and that alone should make him a noteworthy acquisition for just about any team in the league.
Except there’s one tiny issue: The Lakers are killing his trade value.
To be clear, the purple and gold aren’t trying to sabotage his career; the problem is that he has to play alongside Dwight Howard, who just happens to be the best center in the league. Consequently, Gasol has had to play power forward and float to the perimeter to open things up for Howard on the block because Mike D’Antoni favors having one lone interior presence and spacing the court with the four other players out on the perimeter.
The statistics confirm this. MySynergySports tells us that in 65 games last season, Gasol had 378 post ups, whereas this year in 27 games he’s had 84 such opportunities. The end result is that the Spaniard is attempting a career-high amount in three-point shots per game and a career low in free-throw attempts per game. Not so coincidentally, his 42 percent field-goal shooting is the worst of his career.
To add insult to injury, the Lakers coaching staff has openly talked about bringing him off the bench in an attempt to find a better fit in the starting unit. Heck, Mike D’Antoni has even implied that his best shot at winning games may just be with the two-time champion riding the pine:
If I feel like (starting Gasol is) the best way to go, then we'll go that way. If I don't, it's nothing personal. It's just that I got to do what I think is right. I think every player has to accept what is right, whether they like it or not. So, that's the bottom line.
If we put all of those factors together, would you give up any valuable asset for a player making about $19 million per year while his team is treating him like a washed-up player?
And really, that’s why we shouldn’t expect the Lakers to make any blockbuster trade this season. The one asset the team is most likely willing to part with makes far too much in salary for what he’s produced this season, and that is probably scaring off potential suitors. Hence, the only offers the Lakers are receiving for the big man are probably low-ball ones, and really, the purple and gold might just as well stand pat.
This roster will probably close out the season notwithstanding a few minor tweaks here and there, but ultimately, don’t expect any big moves. At some point, their ability to pull off these big moves has to be compromised at least a little, right?