Pros and Cons of Stalled Pau Gasol Trade to Phoenix Suns

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Pros and Cons of Stalled Pau Gasol Trade to Phoenix Suns

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    Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

    Pau Gasol may become a member of the Phoenix Suns, but it's going to take some compromising on the part of either his potential new home or the Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the current asking price is too steep, and the Suns aren't willing to give L.A. everything it's looking for.

    "Phoenix could own four picks in the June draft," he writes, "And the Lakers coveted one of the more valuable two—the pick the Suns could potentially get from Minnesota or the one they might receive from Washington."

    Of course they do. Both of those picks are likely to be more valuable than either the Suns' own selection or the one the rising organization will receive from the Indiana Pacers

    So far, it's been too much, but ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne reports that the trade talks aren't just going to go away. The Lakers apparently believe that a compromise could be reached, though there's no telling which side will be doing the caving. 

    Should it happen? 

    It depends on which side you're analyzing the situation from, as the trade makes far more sense for one organization than it does the other. When you weigh the pros and cons, at least. 

Pro: Pau Needs out of Los Angeles

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    Sometimes a change is necessary. 

    Gasol has done a fantastic job during his time wearing purple-and-gold uniforms, but he's outstayed his welcome in the Staples Center. The subject of seemingly constant trade rumors throughout the year, the Spanish big man has had everything questioned. 

    Is he still as effective? Does he care? Does he feel like trying? Is he whining? 

    You name the question, and it's probably been asked. So long as it's negatively spun, of course. 

    But above all else, Gasol hasn't been able to lead L.A. on to a winning record. The 33-year-old big man has averaged 17.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field, but the Lake Show is still only 16-32 after falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 4. 

    That technically doesn't leave them at the bottom of the Western Conference, but they're pretty darn close. Only tiebreakers have them listed ahead of the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, both of whom boast an identical record to the former power of the conference. 

    As ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported on Twitter, Kobe Bryant claimed that Gasol had a tantrum in the locker room after a loss to the Orlando Magic. "That was the most irritated I've seen Pau in a long, long time," the Mamba said, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times

    That was on Jan. 26, and things have only gotten worse. Now that an injury is keeping him out for the next few weeks, it's tough to imagine Gasol's stock with the Lakers sinking any lower. 

    It's time to bail. 

Con: He'd Be Less Involved in the Phoenix Offense

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    On the Lakers, Gasol is the unquestioned No. 1 option on offense. 

    Even though his skills are declining, he's the best player on the Lake Show so long as Kobe is out and waiting for his knee fracture to fully heal. Scoring 17 points per game, he's slightly behind Nick Young for the lead in that category, but he's the one who starts the game on the court. 

    Additionally, Gasol gets to control the ball more often. Though "Swaggy P" boasts an identical usage rate of 26.4, per Basketball-Reference, the Spaniard's assist percentage pushes him over the top in terms of involvement. 

    That wouldn't be the case on the Phoenix Suns. 

    Perhaps it's because they don't have an established post player, but the Suns run things through their ball-dominant guards. Goran Dragic is in constant control, and the backcourt will become even more possession heavy if Eric Bledsoe beats his expected timetable and returns during this 2013-14 campaign. 

    Jeff Hornacek's squad already has a solid offensive scheme, after all. 

    It's scoring 109.3 points per 100 possessions, which leaves it as the eighth-best offensive squad in the Association. Adding in Gasol would enhance the offense, but it would come at the expense of his touches. 

    While he'd certainly be fed the ball in the post and on the elbows, he'd be a supplement to what is already working. Not too much would need to change, and Gasol would be left scrambling for the touches he's accustomed to receiving in the Staples Center. 

Pro: The Suns Need Post Help

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    According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), the Suns have scored 0.84 points per possession when running plays out of the post. That allows them to check in at No. 16 in the category, which isn't too shabby. 

    However, it's not like Phoenix goes to the post often. 

    Only 11 percent of its plays come in that situation, which isn't a lot. The Suns don't exactly have a go-to player in the post, as their forwards—Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Channing Frye—are all more comfortable on the perimeter. Additionally, Miles Plumlee isn't much of a scorer, especially when his back is to the basket. 

    Gasol would change that. 

    Synergy shows that the 7-footer is scoring 0.83 points per possession, which is admittedly below the Phoenix average. However, he's much more of a go-to player than anyone else on the roster, as he uses 39.7 percent of his possessions from that situation. 

    Take a look at how he stacks up against the other big men who play at least 15 minutes per game: 

    PlayerPoints per Possession% Played UsedTotal Post-Ups Used
    Pau Gasol0.8339.7331
    Channing Frye1.0311.662
    Markieff Morris0.9532193
    Marcus Morris0.9611.154
    Miles Plumlee0.6531.4158

    Gasol might not be scoring as effectively out of the post, but he's still putting up solid numbers while much more heavily involved. 

    And that only accounts for scoring. We can't overlook the work the Lakers big man does while passing out of the post, which adds a whole new element to the team's offensive system. 

Con: He's Not the Long-Term Solution

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    How long is Gasol actually going to make an impact if he ended up in the desert?

    The big man has been declining over the last few years, especially on the defensive end of the court. Though he's still able to post 20 points and 10 rebounds quite often, the rest of his game is slipping, to the point that he can sometimes be a liability. 

    He's actually been quite effective when guarding isolation players and stopping roll men after they set screens, but the help defense is just atrocious. NBA.com's statistical databases show that the Lakers allow 108.5 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the court. When he sits, that number drops to 102.8. 

    If there's that big a disparity while playing in a system he's comfortable in, what happens when he joins a new squad with a similarly uptempo pace? 

    The result could be ugly, and it'll only get uglier as Father Time continues to sap Gasol's athleticism. 

    On top of that, his contract situation is in flux. 

    Gasol becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and there's no telling where he'll go, how long he'll sign for or how much money he'll command. And even if he does re-sign with the Suns, there's no telling how effective he'll be moving forward, especially without the motivation of playing for another big contract to spur him on. 

Pro: The Lakers Need to Take What They Can Get

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    The Lakers need to make something happen, especially if Gasol isn't a part of their future plans. And by all accounts, he's not. 

    During a season in which tanking continues to emerge as a strong and realistic possibility, trading Gasol for future assets—no matter how weak those assets may be—is a good idea. So long as the Lake Show can pick up a young player on a cheap contract, an older player on an expiring deal or a draft pick, it's worth it to move the big man. 

    This team needs to rebuild, especially if Kobe hopes to win another title by the time he calls it quits on his NBA career. 

    There aren't enough strong free agents who will be willing to come to L.A. this offseason, and the current draft pick only offers the opportunity to add one more strong rookie to the mix. But they could get more in this deal, and B/R's D.J. Foster points out the inherent value there: 

    Even if the acquired pick is at the very end of the first-round like Indiana's likely will be, the more chances in the draft, the better. Rookie-scale salaries are some of the best value contracts in basketball, and that's something the Lakers desperately need given the size of Bryant's extension.

    But that's not it. 

    Foster points out that thanks to the Stepien Rule, which prevents teams from dealing first-round picks in back-to-back years, the Lakers can't trade a first-round selection until 2019. Adding another pick gives them the ability to deal it, and that's another asset that general manager Mitch Kupchak would have at his disposal. 

Con: The Suns Shouldn't Give Up Much for Pau

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    Earlier in the season, Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough spoke to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper and explained his mentality moving forward: 

    I think one of the things that’s important for people to realize is that we may not draft four players even if we have four picks. Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.

    Is Gasol the type of star that McDonough was talking about? 

    I seriously doubt it. 

    He may still enjoy household-name status, but the 7-footer is on the decline and already 33 years old. Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines, but the Suns would presumably like for their star to be a long-term part of the plans, someone who can be featured in the desert-based lineup throughout the foreseeable future. 

    Even when the presence of four picks marginalizes the impact of any one, a first-round pick is highly valuable, especially in the stacked 2014 draft class. And the 2015 one is going to be pretty darn good as well. 

    The Suns are giving up too much here, and they certainly aren't receiving enough in return. If a first-round pick is going to leave Phoenix, a young star needs to be coming back. At the very least, the Suns need a piece who can help them next year, when Eric Bledsoe is healthy again and the rest of the young pieces have taken more strides in the right direction. 

     

    Verdict: It shouldn't happen.