Breaking Down Los Angeles Lakers' Best Trade Bait

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIDecember 17, 2013

November 9, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;   Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) looks on as center Jordan Hill (27) stretches his neck after he was fouled in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As NBA teams start to separate themselves as legitimate playoff contenders, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers are aiming to shake things up via trade. In order to do that, however, the Lakers first have to uncover their best trade bait.

The Lakers are reportedly interested in New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard. Also, Pau Gasol's name has continued to surface in trade rumors, as it has for years.

The Lakers need help to climb back to .500, let alone get themselves into playoff position. No team in the NBA is going to help them out without getting a valuable piece in return.

Due to that, it’s time to break down the Lakers’ best trade bait leading up to the 2013-14 trade deadline.

 

Pau Gasol

Dec 13, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) dribbles the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Spo
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Gasol’s trade stock has seen a steady decline since the vetoed Chris Paul trade that would have sent the Spaniard to the Houston Rockets in 2011.

The 33-year-old big man averaged a career-low 13.7 points per game in 2012-13 and is shooting a career-low 42.8 percent from the field so far this season. He’s also traded barbs with head coach Mike D’Antoni, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity,” Gasol said.

D’Antoni responded by saying, “Everybody, to a man, we’ve just got to play harder and worry about things less.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Pau Gasol #16 and head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench before a game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on November 30, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

So why would another team in the NBA want to acquire an ornery big man shooting a career worst from the field?

Well, in addition to being a proven champion, Gasol has an expiring contract. His $19.2 million deal is set to come off the books at season’s end, which would provide plenty of cap relief to whichever team he ends up with.

Acquiring multiple expensive years of a past-his-prime big man prevented trades in the past. Now a team can acquire him for a few months and set itself up for free agency in the process.

A rumored deal that stemmed from Broussard's article would send Gasol to the Knicks in exchange for Shumpert and former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.

The Knicks have made some boneheaded decisions in the past, but this trade is too farfetched. Would New York really give up their two best defensive players for Gasol without moving Amar’e Stoudemire’s egregious contract in the process?

Color me skeptical.

Gasol’s on-court value continues to diminish. Whether that’s due to age, D’Antoni’s coaching system or a combination of the two.

Regardless, his expiring contract is an intriguing trade chip.

 

Jordan Hill

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 14:  Jordan Hill #27 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Time Warner Cable Arena on December 14, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Kent Smith/Getty Images

Not only has Jordan Hill been the Lakers’ most consistent big man this season, but he’s also been arguably the best player on the roster.

He’s averaging 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, and he has a team-leading player efficiency rating of 22.16—which ranks him 16th in the entire NBA.

Also, the big man’s $3.5 million contract is set to expire this summer. Given his level of play, the former University of Arizona standout is set for a big payday. If the Lakers don’t intend to compete in a bidding war to retain him next summer, trading him for value isn’t a bad option.

With Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Lakers are in desperate need of finding backcourt help. Putting Hill on the trade block would bring plenty of suitors.

Hill is certainly one of the Lakers’ best pieces of trade bait, but moving him doesn’t make sense if the Lakers are trying to improve the roster for a playoff run.

 

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s clear that the Lakers don’t have many appealing trade chips.

Hill is a guy opposing teams would love to add, but the Lakers likely won’t be tempted to part with him. Gasol’s hefty contract could help free up cap space, but $19.2 million is still a huge figure to move.

The major question facing the Lakers right now is whether or not they’d even be able to improve this team enough to compete as they sit 12th out of 15 Western Conference teams.

Ultimately, the Lakers may have to embrace a losing season to prepare for the future with their 2014 first-round pick.