The Los Angeles Lakers are in serious trouble. After falling to the Chicago Bulls, they are now 17-24 and are four games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Coach Mike D’Antoni seems incredibly lost during his first season on the Lakers sideline. This team simply needs a breath of fresh air to save them from this lost season.
There have been trade rumors swirling around Los Angeles, and power forward Pau Gasol’s name has been mentioned in a lot of them. Gasol’s role on the team has diminished ever since D’Antoni took over. Instead of playing him in the paint, the Lakers have turned Gasol into a stretch 4. So, basically, D’Antoni has been wasting Gasol’s talents in order to put his offensive system first.
Because of this, Gasol’s trade value has decreased dramatically. Now that the Lakers replaced him with Earl Clark in the starting rotation, they might not be able to get 50 cents on the dollar for Gasol. It also doesn’t help that he’s making $19 million per year over the last two seasons of his contract.
I think the Lakers would be better off trading away Dwight Howard instead of Gasol.
There’s a decent chance Howard will bolt from the Lakers in the offseason. The odds of him leaving increase even more if the Lakers decide to retain D’Antoni. And if the Lakers trade away Gasol and can’t re-sign Howard in the offseason, they’d be back at square one.
Also, the Lakers would be able to get more pieces for Howard, even though he has an expiring contract. Though Howard has been criticized mightily for his play this season, some of his stats don’t tell that story. He’s averaging an elite 12.3 rebounds a game and 2.5 blocks per game. Howard’s shooting over 58 percent from the field as well. It wouldn’t be hard for the Lakers to find a suitor willing to give up a good amount for him.
Additionally, is Howard a good fit for the Lakers? The Lakers are giving up 101.4 points per game, the fourth-worst mark in the Western Conference. The former Defensive Player of the Year can’t be as effective on the defensive side of the ball because of the Lakers' horrible perimeter defense.
Also, could it be bothering Howard that this clearly isn’t his team. Yes, he did agree to play with Kobe Bryant in the offseason, but he might be having second thoughts. Howard doesn’t have the same competitive mentality as Kobe, and they’ve already clashed this season.
If the Lakers trade Howard, they’d be able to get players who would help them now and in the future. This Lakers roster isn’t built to win now, and definitely not in this deep Western Conference. By trading Howard, the Lakers can cut back on some of their losses. If he leaves in the offseason, the Lakers might as well trade Kobe because there’s no way they would win a championship before he retires.
Trading Gasol wouldn’t help the Lakers nearly as much as trading Howard would. Gasol can still be an important piece to the team, and his trade market value right now is insulting. He just needs a coach that can actually utilize his strengths. Howard, on the other hand, presents an interesting opportunity for the Lakers to be able to hit the re-do button and come back with a strong team next season.