L.A. Lakers: Maybe Mitch Kupchak Should Have Waited for the Other Gasol

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 02:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers is boxed out by Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center on January 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Grizzlies defeated the Lakers 104-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Some people say hindsight is 20/20, and if the cliche is true, then now would be a good time to reflect on the early 2008 deal that brought Pau Gasol to Los Angeles in what some considered to be a case of pure thievery.

The Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Jerry West were openly criticized by many of their peers in the NBA, and there were whispers of collusion since no one could understand why the Grizzlies would accept such a horrible deal.

At the time, it seemed that Kwame Brown was the most important piece that the Lakers were forfeiting in order to acquire Pau, and the fact that the future rights for his little brother Marc were also included was an afterthought.

In the wake of the Lakers franchise-changing sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks and Pau's uninspired 2011 postseason, the image of the younger Gasol as a Laker gains more clarity.

Especially considering how Marc's Grizzlies exceeded expectations and how his 2011 postseason performances were far better than that of older brother Pau.

The eighth-seeded Grizzlies took the higher-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder to the seven-game limit and Marc's play in the paint is one of the reasons another upset by the Grizzlies wouldn't have surprised too many people.

Marc averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds this postseason, which is better than the 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game that Pau averaged.

Pau has had a much more decorated career, and is probably superior to Marc in terms of overall skills and fundamentals, but little brother is not far behind in either category; additionally, Marc has some advantages that you can't teach.

Both Marc and Pau are true seven footers, but Marc is an inch taller and more importantly, a few pounds heavier.

Pau has a reputation of playing on the soft side in the post, and although Marc will not likely win any future tough-man awards, it's a little harder to push around a player who stands 7'1" and weighs 265 pounds, and that's down from a high of 330.

But Marc moves very well with his weight and he also inherited Pau's intelligence on the court, as well as his passing ability in the paint. And to think he has only played three seasons in the NBA.

And to a Lakers organization seeking to quickly erase the recent past and concentrate on an uncertain future, Marc's youth may be the most damning aspect of all.

The younger Gasol is developing into the type of player that a team can build around and his presence would certainly help to quell the acid that must be churning in Kupchak's belly.

Kupchak was seen as a near genius for his ability to acquire Gasol, but that moment in Lakers history is partly responsible for the success that Memphis is experiencing right now.

West was allegedly only a consultant for the Grizzlies when the Gasol trade was made, but considering Mr. Logo's deep Laker roots some thought the deal was West's final parting gift for his beloved former franchise.

And in many ways, it was exactly that, since this season will be the first Los Angeles has failed to reach the NBA Finals since Pau arrived in Hollywood.

It's hard to argue against the Lakers two NBA championships during the Pau era, but it could also be an instance of the Grizzlies and West exhibiting some impressive foresight.

Someone in the Grizzlies' organization apparently envisioned what type of player Marc Gasol could potentially become. Or Memphis just happened to get very lucky.

Either way, the course of Lakers history would have been far different if Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss would have shown a little patience when Andrew Bynum was injured early in 2008.

A sense of desperation and the end of what had been a promising season probably made the decision easy in Kupchak's and Buss' opinion, but one more season would have revealed Bynum's injury-prone nature and and incidentally the younger Gasol's debut as a Laker.

Marc Gasol may not be as strong as Bynum, but he is arguably a more versatile player and nowhere near the injury liability.

The Lakers may not have won consecutive championships with the younger Gasol, but they would be in a much better position to deal with the future than they are now, if they had not acquired his brother in 2008.

After being exposed by Dallas, the Lakers face a major retooling effort, and in order to improve the team, Kupchak may strongly explore the possibility of dealing Bynum, Pau or both.

Pau is getting older and although his value to the Lakers the past three seasons has been immeasurable, his performance in the 2011 postseason could make him expendable.

The Lakers did have a great four-year run with Gasol, and although he may be included in the team's rebuilding process, the embarrassing defeat to Dallas had a certain air of finality about it.

Changes are definitely on the horizon for the Lakers and Kupchak, and, unfortunately, the decision he and Buss made in 2008 by deciding to acquire Pau may decide how quickly the team can regain championship form.