Pros and Cons of LA Lakers Trading Pau Gasol During 2013 Offseason
A Gasol swap puts the Lakers and their fans on notice that the franchise is transitioning into a new era. Indeed, the skilled big man helped the Purple and Gold reach the NBA Finals three times in a row.
Thus, his exit becomes a clear sign that the front office is looking into the future of the franchise.
According to Hoopworld, the Lakers are projected to have a boatload of cap space in the 2014 offseason. This is not by accident. Per ESPN.com, the Lakers plan to make a pitch at LeBron James that summer if the superstar exercises the early termination clause in his contract.
It stands to reason the Lakers are planning on remaining relevant between now and then. Consequently, tweaking the roster is perhaps the best to go about that after a mediocre 2012-13 regular season.
The Lakers’ biggest trade chip is Gasol and there are multiple potential packages for Mitch Kupchak to consider.
One has to wonder though: What are the pros and cons of sending away the Spaniard?
Glad you asked…
The 2012-13 regular season was a huge disappointment in Lakerland given the multiple injuries. Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash all missed considerable time during the course of the regular season.
The roster was not constructed to sustain injuries and when they presented themselves, the Lakers struggled.
A Gasol trade will more than likely bring back a few players to contribute. That’s quite important on a team that lacks depth.
Gasol’s $19.3 million contract makes it unlikely that he will be traded straight up for another player. Typically, only superstars make that kind of money.
Given that Gasol’s contract expires at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season and that he will turn 33 during the 2013 offseason, no team will trade away a superstar for his talents.
However, suitors will be more than willing to give spare parts for the big man and the Lakers certainly need those.
Con: Dwight Howard Loses Partner in Crime
It took the entire 2012-13 season for Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to get used to playing with each other, but once they did their synergy became a thing of beauty.
Gasol routinely found Howard rolling to the basket and hit him in stride in those instances. Because Howard was not as explosive as he was in previous seasons due to his back injury, finishing at the basket became a little more difficult for him.
Thus, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year needed to receive precise passes that he could immediately catch and finish. Gasol excelled on this front and made Howard look good on multiple occasions.
Trading away Gasol means that if Howard remains a Laker, he must get acclimated to a new group of guys feeding him. On the surface it may not look like much, but it took Gasol and Howard an entire season to figure things out. Thus, the Laker offense might have a few issues on this front.
Pro: Addition of Floor Spacers
Trading away Pau Gasol will probably bring back a few perimeter players. Indeed, there is a reason that big men are paid so handsomely: they are a rare and precious commodity.
Therefore, a Gasol transaction will bring in numerous spare parts, and in this case it stands to reason the Lakers will acquire perimeter players. Given the Spaniard’s skill set, it is the only reason to get rid of him.
The Lakers will not get a better big man than Gasol in a trade given his age and the expiration of his contract. But guys on the perimeter, teams will part with those.
That’s an important factor for the Lakers with Mike D’Antoni coaching them. His philosophy requires for his teams to push the pace and fire away from three-point range.
Hence, adding a few floor spacers will be a huge bonus given the team’s identity. Gasol was often forced out to the perimeter where he fired away from downtown, which is not part of his strengths.
Swapping him and getting players that shoot the ball from deep and get to the rim will certainly be a big bonus for the Lakers.
Con: Absence of a Playmaker
The Lakers are optimistic that Kobe Bryant will recover from his Achilles tear fast enough to be ready for the start of the 2013-14 campaign. But in truth they do not yet have a return date.
Laker trainer Gary Vitty shared as much with Mike Trudel in an interview at Lakers.com:
We don't know yet. Kobe looks exactly the way he's supposed to look at this point in time.
Bryant was the Lakers’ primary ball handler and playmaker during the 2012-13 season. Steve Nash shared some of those responsibilities but his injuries and advanced age slowed him a little.
Nash had a few issues with attacking opposing guards off the dribble and occasionally struggled in the face of trapping defenses.
Pau Gasol was an excellent pressure release point in these situations because of his adequate ball handling for a big man and his passing ability.
However, if the Purple and Gold trades him, they lose one of their best playmakers. In the event Bryant can recover in time for the start of the season, it is less problematic, but otherwise it becomes a huge issue for the team.
We already covered that a Pau Gasol trade more than likely gives the Lakers depth on the roster. Additionally, the players acquired in a transaction will be probably be younger.
Four of the five Laker starters in 2012-13 were over the age 30, and the team also had two other rotation players exceeding that threshold. The team is in desperate need of quality young players to withstand the grind of the 82-game schedule.
Also, if the Lakers can manage trades to bring back athletic wing players such as Courtney Lee or Nicolas Batum, even better. Youth and athleticism will be of a tremendous help to a Laker team looking to run teams off the court.
But again, it’s not merely about getting younger players, they have to be talented as well.
Con: Decline in Scoring Efficiency
Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni changed Pau Gasol’s role when they took over coaching duties with the Lakers.
Prior to their stints, Phil Jackson used Gasol mostly in the high post and low post where he put defenders in a torture box of post moves. Per Basketball-Reference, Gasol converted 54.2 percent of his field-goals under Jackson.
When Brown and then later on D’Antoni arrived in town, they pushed Gasol further out on the perimeter and used him more in pick-and-rolls, which resulted in a slight decline in his efficiency. Since Jackson’s departure at the end of 2010-11 season, Gasol’s been shooting 48.7 percent from the field according to Basketball-Reference.
Although his shooting numbers have declined, Gasol has still been a very good and efficient scorer under both Brown and D’Antoni. However, trading away the Spaniard could result in a drop in scoring efficiency.
The Lakers scored nearly at a top five rate in 2012-13 with Gasol on the floor and closer to a top 10 rate with him on the bench per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
The big caveat here obviously revolves around the players the Lakers acquire for the skilled big man. Thus, it’s not an absolute that the Laker offense will suffer a drop off in scoring.
But it’s highly likely considering the player they would be losing.
Pro: Cutting Costs
When glancing over the Lakers’ salary commitments for 2013-14, it seems as though they will be in luxury tax territory. If they re-sign Dwight Howard, then they will have a payroll probably north of $90 million.
Have a look at the harsh penalties that come along with being approximately $20 million over the luxury tax threshold over at Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ. That is some serious coin.
Trading away Gasol obviously brings back new players, but if the Lakers play their cards right, they bring back talent at a slightly cheaper rate. Reducing cost seems necessary given the penalties involved.
Con: Long-term contracts
As previously stated, the Lakers plan to make a free agency splash in the 2014 offseason with the cap room they will have. However, trading Gasol can complicate that plan ever so slightly.
Indeed, the acquisition of new players means the Purple and Gold will have new contracts on board, and it’s quite possible these commitments will not expire by the time the 2014 summer arrives.
Potentially, a Gasol trade can complicate the entire plan going forward. Then again…
Pro: Movable Contracts
Big contracts can be difficult to move. Between trade kickers and the luxury tax, executing transactions can get complicated. Mind you, players with smaller financial commitments are easier to swap.
Every season, there are a few players that get traded who happen to have modest salaries. They usually get moved to trim payroll, acquire draft picks or simply upgrade the roster.
Thus, trading away Gasol for players with relatively smaller contracts gives the Lakers new bargaining chips. They can swap these players afterwards in other moves in an effort to make the team better and even potentially reduce the payroll.
Con: No center if Dwight Howard bolts
Dwight Howard is a free agent in the 2013 offseason and will probably entertain offers from multiple teams. In the event the Lakers trade away Pau Gasol and Howard departs from the franchise, the Purple and Gold will not have a quality-starting center on the roster in 2013-14.
The Lakers still have a capable back up in Jordan Hill, but he is better suited to come off the bench and contribute for a few minutes per game. Howard and Gasol provide interior scoring on the low block and are threats in the pick-and-roll.
In addition, they provide good defensive efforts in the paint and challenge shots at the rim quite well. Losing both means the Lakers lose out on scoring in the paint and defending the basket.
With both big men gone, Hill gets promoted to the starting lineup and essentially robs the Lakers of a second unit big man.