Is Pau Gasol's time in LA coming to an end?
Who wants Pau Gasol?
When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the seven-foot Spaniard back in 2008, it came as a shock to most of the basketball world. Now, five years later, another Gasol trade seems inevitable.
In fact, the Lakers already traded Gasol once, before last season. David Stern shot down the deal that would have sent Chris Paul to LA for "basketball reasons," but ever since then, the Gasol trade rumors have constantly hovered over the team.
Even Gasol himself has admitted recently that being shipped out of town certainly looks like a possibility.
So given the present situation, a seven-foot-tall former All-Star at the tail end of his prime is available for what will likely be pennies on the dollar. Here are five teams that should go after Gasol.
Sounds crazy right? The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, two blood rivals, doing business together.
But Pau Gasol may be exactly what Boston needs. The Celtics have been playing Kevin Garnett at center for the past year and a half, and while they have been better in that alignment than any of the others, the results (at least in the regular season) still have not been great.
Without any post scorers, the Celtics have become almost exclusively a jump-shooting team, leaving their offense in the bottom 10 in the NBA in points per possession.
Gasol would give them a huge boost on offense and on the boards (where the C's are second-to-last in rebound rate), plus his size may give them one advantage over the Miami Heat should they meet in the playoffs.
The only snag is that the Celtics would have to send back a package that includes Jeff Green and probably Brandon Bass as well, two contracts that the Lakers would be crazy to take on, even in their desperate state.
The Toronto Raptors have been in rebuilding mode for years now. It's about time they start winning.
And in a weak Eastern Conference with only one great team, why not go for it?
It helps that the Raptors already have a built-in package that has been discussed over and over again. They would hardly miss Andrea Bargnani (who they've been much better without), and Jose Calderon is eminently expendable since he is in his walk year and Kyle Lowry is more than capable of handling lead guard duties.
Gasol would give their offense a cornerstone and ease the load on guys who are being stretched offensively like DeMar DeRozan.
The argument for the Milwaukee Bucks is similar to that of the Raptors; the only difference is that they are in a better position to "go for it" given that they are already a playoff team and have a better roster than Toronto.
Pau Gasol represents a massive upgrade at the center position for Milwaukee, who are currently playing the offensively inert (and somewhat undersized) Larry Sanders at the five. Plus, they too have a tailor-made trade package for Pau Gasol that I am surprised no one is talking about.
A deal sending Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova to LA in exchange for Gasol is a financial wash. Milwaukee solves their dual-undersized-gunner problem in the backcourt and brings in a low-post scorer who will balance their offense. Ilyasova is expendable given the deep pool of big men the Bucks have (Sanders, Drew Gooden, Sam Dalembert, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh).
Meanwhile, the Lakers get a dynamic perimeter scorer and Mike D'Antoni's coveted stretch-four. Ilyasova's slow start to the season earned him a bad rap, but he's turned it around of late.
Over his past 14 games, he's averaging a robust 20 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes on scorching 50/55/84 (FG/FT/3-PT) shooting splits and sports a higher PER than either Ellis or Gasol for the season.
Houston has been a great success story this season. After acquiring James Harden, the Rockets have jumped into the playoff race out West, but they still lack a big man who can generate easy baskets for them.
Pau Gasol can be that guy. His low-post scoring will take pressure off of Harden (who has had a sneaky-poor season shooting from the field) and his deft passing will take advantage of all the long-range bombers the Rockets can surround him with.
The glaring problem to any Gasol-to-Houston deal is that Houston's roster is stocked with low-salary players, meaning that the only way they can acquire Gasol is to get additional teams involved to make the cap math work out.
Another team that should pursue Pau Gasol is the Denver Nuggets.
While Denver has constructed an incredibly efficient offense out of a guard-oriented dribble-drive attack, adding a proven post scorer and passer like Gasol would give the Nuggets another layer on offense that would make them even harder to defend.
Consider Denver is seventh in offensive efficiency despite not possessing a single big man who can create his own offense. George Karl still doesn't trust JaVale McGee enough to play him more than 20 minutes a game (Why would you, really?), so the lion's share of center minutes are still up for grabs, and Gasol represents a vast upgrade from Kosta Koufos.
Additionally, Gasol can improve Denver's defensive rebounding, which ranks 26th in the league in percentage of defensive boards grabbed.
The Nuggets can send back a package built around Andre Iguodala, who is a superb defender and excellent jack-of-all-trades player that would fit in better on a team like the Lakers who have players higher on the pecking order.
Throwing in, say, Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph would give the Lakers a splash of youth and some more depth as well.