Pau Gasol is the epitome of a team player. He is a pure class act in every sense of the word and would be an asset to every team in the league.
Which is exactly why the Los Angeles Lakers need to trade him as soon as possible.
Simply put, the Lakers season, for all intents and purposes, is over. After losing 110-97 to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, the Lakers have now dropped eight of their last 10 games. You can watch the full highlights below:
The Lakers also fell to six games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. In comparison, they are just 2.5 games ahead of the Sacramento Kings, the team with the worst record in the West.
Any chance of the team competing for a playoff spot and making noise once they get there continues to fade into the distance with each new player that goes down with an injury.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have played in just 12 combined games this year. Nash's backups at point guard—Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake—have each missed over a dozen games. It has gotten so bad for the team's backcourt, that they signed Kendall Marshall off the streets to start at point guard for them, and he has averaged over 37 minutes per game.
As sportwriter Jeff Grant mentioned, the Lakers have used 18 different starting lineups this season thanks to a litany of injuries.
For this season, the best-case scenario for the Lakers would be getting everyone healthy and gelling in time to snag one of the last playoff seeds in the Western Conference.
However, that would in turn be the worst-case scenario for the future of the franchise.
The reality is even with a fully healthy team, the Lakers aren't going to win a championship this year. Making the playoffs for some franchises may be seen as a success, but when you have 16 championships your goal shouldn't be just to get there.
Instead, the Lakers best long-term prospects would simply be to bottom out this year. Throw one season away and try your luck in the draft lottery. The last time the team had a lottery pick they landed a 7'0" center by the name of Andrew Bynum, who helped lead the team to back-to-back titles.
This year's returns could be even better thanks to a stacked draft class.
Prior to the season, Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal looked into some of the top prospects at each position and how they could turn around a franchise.
Make no mistake about it. This is a Stacked draft class with a capital S.
The point guard and power forward positions are loaded with franchise-changing talent, and Andrew Wiggins alone keeps the small forward spot highly relevant. The centers aren't on that same level, but they're good enough to make for a great class.
If you're looking to turn your franchise around with any of these positions, you're in great shape. As highly coveted as the No. 1 pick will be this year, it's not like the rest of the lottery is devoid of excellent options.
In fact, it looks like this draft class has the potential to go down as the best of all time. There are a lot of games left to be played between now and then, but the hype exists for a reason.
Getting into the lottery virtually assures the Lakers of landing a franchise-changing prospect. Pair that prospect with one of the big free agents in the offseason and this team could fully rebuild and contend for a championship in a matter of two years.
That is where trading Pau Gasol comes in. But whether or not the Lakers can actually get any sort of value for him remains to be seen.
Now they are left with looking for another team that wants a skilled, yet aging, big man.
But the Lakers need to just sell him off to the highest bidder and just take whatever they can get for him, whether that be just straight cash or any type of draft-pick compensation. The only thing Gasol is going to do for this Lakers team is push them further and further away from a good draft position—which is what this season should be all about.
If the Lakers can combine the young core they have of Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson with a top-tier free agent and an elite draft prospect, the future will look very bright in La-La land. However, if they continue on their current path to mediocrity, their chances of future success will be as dark as their prospects of success in the near future.
Pau Gasol has meant so much for this franchise, and his jersey belongs in the rafters with the other Lakers greats once he retires.
But the time is now to thank him for his services and send him on his way.
The future is now for the Los Angeles Lakers, and as tough as it might be to deal with, that future doesn't include Pau Gasol.