As I mentioned in my most recent article, I—as a Los Angeles Lakers fan—was just as frustrated with Pau Gasol's performance, or lack thereof, in the 2011 NBA Playoffs as anyone else. I often called for him to be traded, hoping that the Lakers could acquire some youth in return.
However, with this report by Eric Pincus surfacing, I'm beginning to reconsider the idea of trading Gasol. Pincus states that allegedly the Lakers are involved in discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a potential swap of Pau Gasol and Kevin Love—and maybe the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Look, I understand that Gasol struggled mightily in the 2011 playoffs, but one postseason doesn't define a player, especially a player who has already proven that he can help carry a team through a postseason.
If you're still questioning Gasol's ability in crunch-time, take a look at these playoff averages:
In the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Gasol averaged 18.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and two blocks per game while shooting an astonishing 58 percent from the field. In addition, with Andrew Bynum limited due to an injury, Gasol was forced to defend Orlando's Dwight Howard, who was coming off a series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which he averaged 25.8 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field.
So, what did Gasol do?
For the most part, Gasol contained Howard, forcing him to shoot contested hook shots rather than allowing him to get inside for an easy dunk, limiting the Magic's big man to 15.4 points per game on 48 percent shooting.
What does all of this have to do with the rumored Gasol for Love trade?
It's simple. For Kobe and the Lakers to win, they need to build around Kobe and Gasol.
Without Gasol, Kobe never wins the 2009 or 2010 NBA Finals. He'd be stuck with three rings and a cloud hanging over his head, reminding him that he still has never won without Shaq.
Analyzing the Trade: How would Lakers perform?
First off, because Gasol's contract is so much bigger than Love's, the Timberwolves would have to package at least three to four more players along with Love to make this deal work.
So, for the fun of it, we'll have the Timberwolves sending Love, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Anthony Tolliver and Lazar Hayward to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. (**NOTE: The Timberwolves very well could include Beasley in that package of players)
Let's say the trade goes through.
Here's what the Lakers' starting lineup would look like:
PG: Jonny Flynn
SF: Ron Artest
PF: Kevin Love
C: Andrew Bynum
Please don't try to tell me that's a better lineup than the Lakers' lineup in the 2010-11 season.
As bad as the Lakers were at the point guard position in 2010-11, Flynn would provide them with almost no upgrade at all. The only aspect of the Lakers that he would improve is their overall team speed. Aside from that, he is a worse shooter—which the Lakers desperately need—and passer than Steve Blake and Derek Fisher.
In the 2010-11 NBA season, Flynn had an efficiency rating of +4.98.
Darko Milicic had a +10.94.
Jared Jeffries had a +10.
Derek Fisher—despite having arguably one of the worst seasons in his career—had a +11.1.
The idea of Flynn in a Lakers' uniform is so haunting that it brings back memories of Smush Parker—who can't even be found on NBA.com anymore.
Now that it's clear that Flynn wouldn't make much of a difference for the Lakers, aside from Love, who would?
The Lakers already have 11 players under contract—Kobe, Fisher, Blake, Gasol, Bynum, Luke Walton (unfortunately), Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter—so Hayward and Tolliver probably wouldn't even make the team.
Darko could spell Bynum, however, the idea of him on the floor in crucial games scares me more than thought of bringing back Kwame Brown (which is terrifying).
So, if the Lakers aren't gaining value from any of the other pieces in the trade, it basically comes down to Love vs. Gasol.
Love vs. Gasol
A lot of people jumped on the Kevin Love bandwagon this season when the Timberwolves' forward put together a streak of 53-consecutive games in which he recorded a double-double—the longest streak since the ABA and NBA merger in 1976—and averaged 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range.
But, is Love really that good?
Can he produce similar numbers again next season?
Are his numbers inflated because he is on a bad team?
If he is so good, why have the Timberwolves won a combined 32 games in the past two seasons?
Even on bad teams, Gasol led the Memphis Grizzlies to three straight postseason births.
To further examine the two players, let's break down the Love versus Gasol argument into specific categories:
Rebounding: Advantage—Love . Although Gasol is a great rebounder, this is easily Love's best category. He is a machine on the boards, averaging 11.7 rebounds per game in his career and finishing the 2010-11 season ranked No. 1 in rebounds per game, total rebounds, offensive rebounds per game and defensive rebounds per game.
Three-point Shooting: Advantage—Love. Again, this one is a pretty easy one to determine because Gasol rarely shoots three-pointers while Love has proven to be a solid three-pointer shooter, hitting 37.2 percent from 3-point range in his career.
Mid-Range Shooting: Advantage – Gasol. Aside from maybe Amare Stoudemire, Gasol is the best mid-range shooter among starting power forwards and centers. Gasol has a soft touch and is capable of hitting very fall away shots over defenders. Gasol is a career 52-percent shooter from the field while Love's career field goal percentage is 46.1.
Low-Post Scoring: Advantage – Gasol. Gasol is a tremendous low-post scorer. He is patient and understands how to properly read a defense, which allows him to anticipate double-teams. Gasol's long arms allow him to shoot his running hook over defenders, and his impressive accuracy continues to improve.
Low-Post Moves: Advantage – Gasol. If Dwight Howard had Gasol's low-post moves, he would be unstoppable. Gasol has an array of low-post moves: a drop-step to the baseline that gives him an inside position on his defender and leads to an easy layup; a drop-step toward the lane that allows him to put up an easy hook shot; a turn and face the defender move (similar to Tim Duncan's) that puts Gasol in a position to take a jump shot over the defender or drive past the defender; and a dribble-drop move.
Passing: Advantage – Gasol. As Shady Botros mentioned in his article back in 2010, Gasol is one of the most talented passing big men in the league. He is able to see his teammates cutting even with his back to the basket, and as a result, he can hit them right in stride. In addition to his great vision, Gasol's patience and basketball IQ are key reasons for his success as a passer. When he receives the ball in the post, Gasol either waits for the double-team to come, or attacks the basket before the double-team does come. If a double-team comes, Gasol kicks it out to the unguarded teammate for an open shot.
Defense: Advantage – Gasol. Gasol's offensive ability often overshadows the solid defense that he is capable of playing. Because of his length, Gasol is able to force his opponents into taking difficult shots. While Love is an improved defender, he is a little smaller, which makes it easier for his opponents to shoot over him.
Athleticism: Advantage – Love. Both players are surprisingly athletic, and this is somewhat of a toss-up, however, I'll give it to Love because of his ability to avoid box outs and grab rebounds over taller players.
Heart: Advantage – Love. Look at his last name. If he didn't play with a lot of heart and passion there would be something wrong with him.
Basketball IQ: Advantage – Gasol. Again, Gasol is one of the most intelligent players in the league, and he learned some of it from playing alongside Kobe, who was voted by players and coaches as the player with the highest basketball IQ. Gasol's high basketball IQ allowed him to grasp the concept the triangle offense quickly, which was vital to the Lakers' chances to win.
So, after 10 categories, Gasol finished ahead of Love 6-4.
Does this mean that they shouldn't trade for Love based on that?
But, it's the little things that Gasol does that makes him such a perfect fit for the Lakers offense. He doesn't need plays run for him to be effective. Just by posting up, Gasol can create shots for himself as well as shots for others.
The Lakers need playmakers, and Gasol is absolutely a playmaker.
If the Lakers want to win another championship before the Kobe-era ends, they need to keep Gasol and focus on acquiring a playmaking point guard.