2011 NBA Draft: Could L.A. Lakers Trade for Right To Draft Derrick Williams?

Mark BirdsellContributor IIIJune 17, 2011

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats looks on from the bench against the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

There has been much speculation since the Minnesota Timberwolves were awarded the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

This is widely considered a two-player draft, with Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. Irving is expected to be selected first overall by the Cavaliers, leaving the T-Wolves with Williams. However, Williams doesn’t make sense for the Wolves.

As it stands today, Minnesota’s two best players are Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. Both are forwards. Both are young. Both are talented. 

Williams is seen as a combo forward, meaning he would have to take minutes from either of the above, if not both.

This has led many NBA insiders to believe that Minnesota would attempt to move their pick.  David Kahn has publicly stated he does not want to trade the pick. However, that is likely to keep the public value of the pick as high as possible.

Chad Ford of ESPN is reporting that Kahn has tremendous interest in Pau Gasol.

This makes sense, as Minnesota is a young team and adding more young players doesn’t get them any closer to winning. Eventually, a team needs to add veterans.

The Timberwolves are already set to bring Ricky Rubio over from Spain, once he finalizes a buyout with Regal Barcelona. It is time for Kahn to pick which young players he truly wants to build around and start adding veterans that complement those players.

The question then becomes why would the Los Angeles Lakers consider trading Gasol?

Since acquiring him at the trade deadline in 2008 the Lakers have won two championships and made three finals appearances. While it is true they were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs this season, that was to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks.

There is no reason to suggest the Lakers can’t regain their form next season and win another title.

Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting Los Angeles’ title window has closed. The team still has one of the best three players on the planet. A great supporting cast and it features one of the biggest front lines in the league.

However, at some point you need to start looking towards the future and I think that time should be now.

Red Auerbach, the legendary Boston Celtics coach and general manager was one of the greatest basketball minds ever. He was able to keep his team in contention every year, while at the same time looking toward the future.

The Celtics won 16 NBA titles between 1957and 1986 because Auerbach wasn’t focused solely on winning now. He always had his next star lined up and if it wasn’t for the sudden death of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, Boston likely would have a few more championship banners.

Returning to the Lakers, it is time for Mitch Kupchak to start looking toward the future. He has already done this once in his tenure as General Manager. 

In 2004, Kupchak had a decision to make. He could only keep one of Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal. While Shaq was still one of the most dominant big men in the game, Kupchak decided to go with the younger Bryant. 

At the time, it appeared to be a mistake. Shaq went to Miami and brought the Heat their first championship in 2006. Kobe stayed in Los Angeles, the team struggled and Bryant requested a trade to the Chicago Bulls. Luckily, Kupchak stood his ground, kept Kobe and the team went on to win two more titles.

As the Lakers are currently constructed, they are still capable of competing for an NBA Championship. However, how long will that title window stay open?

The only rotation players on the current Laker roster under 30 are Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown.

Bryant likely has a couple more seasons where he will be among the NBA’s elite. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest are nowhere near the players the once were.

Gasol is the team’s most tradeable asset. And unfortunately, the only way to get quality players is by giving up one in return.

A straight-up trade of Gasol for Williams would never happen. Gasol is still among the best frontcourt players in the league. Minnesota would have to include a few other pieces. A package of Williams, Wesley Johnson and a third player would work for both sides.

Minnesota gets a veteran who can come in and help the team win now. He would be a great mentor for Love and is capable of playing center, thereby not taking away any of Love’s playing time.

Los Angeles receives a dynamic young combo-forward in Williams. He could play at either the three or the four, with Lamar Odom taking the other spot. Meanwhile, they also receive Johnson, a talented young wing player who will be able to give Bryant more rest as he gets older.

The Lakers would have a core of Bynum, Williams and Johnson going forward, which—if they all develop as expected—should be able to keep Los Angeles in championship contention once Kobe hangs it up.

In all likelihood, no one would suggest trading Gasol if the Lakers had won another title this year. However, the reality is they didn’t and the team is getting older. 

If Los Angeles doesn’t want to go through a painful rebuilding process in a couple years, and let’s face it, this is one city that won’t tolerate rebuilding. The team needs follow Auerbach’s lead and line up its next star now, before the team falls out of contention.