NBA Rumors: Lakers Must Fight Temptation and Keep Pau Gasol Until Summer

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2013

Apr. 7, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol on the bench during the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 125-105.  Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pau Gasol has struggled mightily ever since Mike D'Antoni became head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, and it's starting to become clear that a trade would be in the best interests of both parties. Speaking to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, Gasol stated that if GM Mitch Kupchak were to re-sign Dwight Howard and D'Antoni remained coach, it would be tough for him to stay with the team he helped win two championships.

Based on that alone, the Lakers should try and deal Gasol as soon as possible, regardless of how well he has played in Howard's absence. It's clear that he isn't happy and it'd be better to try and trade him for a power forward who will fully buy into D'Antoni's system and not complain about their role in it. The key to a successful team is to have solid chemistry in the locker room and Gasol has done nothing but hold the Lakers back in that department this season.

However, as tempting as it may be to trade Gasol now, the Lakers simply must hang onto him until the summer. Yes, the Spanish seven-footer is having one of the worst seasons of his career, posting a career-worst 13.3 points to go with 8.1 rebounds and a career-low field goal mark of 46 percent, but he is just too valuable to the Lakers right now.

Los Angeles is currently without All-Star center Dwight Howard, whose shoulder is acting up again. Since Gasol has proven to be more effective at the 5 this season and there is no telling how much time Howard will miss, the Lakers would be better off holding onto their unhappy player. Gasol has also been effective over his last five games, averaging 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field.

More importantly, the Lakers will have a hell of a time trading Gasol now compared to the summer, when he should be easier to move. He is set to make $19 million this season and is due just shy of $19.3 million in 2013-14.

Not only would Gasol be easier to trade then, as an expiring contract without many luxury tax ramifications (if any at all), but let's not forget that the Lakers are not dead yet this season. The team is currently 22-26, has won five of six since Kobe Bryant went into playmaker mode, and is currently just three-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference.

That all being said, it's better for the Lakers to ride out the season with Gasol either covering for Howard in the starting lineup or serving as a backup center/sixth man. In doing so, he can increase his trade value by the end of the season. Should Los Angeles make the playoffs, his value will skyrocket.

At that point, Kupchak will finally be able to pursue a trade involving Gasol and get some solid talent in return as opposed to just a handful of players and draft picks.