Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last two days, you are probably aware of the rumors that are circulating about the Lakers and Nuggets having trade discussions centering around an Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony trade. There have been numerous opinions from analysts, blogs, as well as forums discussing the pro's and con's of such a move. While all of those focused Bynum, I am instead proposing a different Laker be traded for Carmelo Anthony... Pau Gasol. Now before you proceed down to the comment section to blast this idea, I ask that you read the entire post and keep your mind open for what would truly best improve the Lakers. You can however skip down to the bottom to see my trade proposal if you would like.
Why not an Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony trade?
The biggest reason that I can think of is that such a trade would not necessarily improve the Lakers in the areas they need improvement.
When building an NBA team I think the goal is very simple, to be the best on offense and defense in the league. Obviously this is very difficult to do (only 72 win Bulls have met that standard in the modern era) but it should still be a goal none-the-less. If a team is the best on both ends then barring any bad luck they should win the title. It is as simple as that. So how do the Lakers compare with these goals?
Offensively the Lakers are currently tied with Denver as the most efficient offense in the league (according to www.basketball-reference.com). When it comes to this end of the floor the Lakers are already "championship caliber". Defensively however the Lakers rank only 11th. Meanwhile, the true contenders for this year's title all rank ahead of them: Chicago (1), Boston (2), Miami (3), Orlando (4), San Antonio (7), and Dallas (10). It is the defense of the Lakers that really needs to be the focus.
In order to address the defensive issues, one must first examine the various components of the defense to see where it is the Lakers struggle. Below is a table showing a couple of defensive statistics for the Lakers relative to the league average and where they rank in the league
|Def Reb %||0.737||0.725||21st|
It is quite evident that the Lakers are good at not allowing the opposition to shoot efficiently or get to the line often. The only thing keeping the Lakers from being a top team defensively is their inability to grab defensive rebounds. The recent game against the Spurs was a prime example. The game winning tip by Antonio McDyess was the 4th shot attempt of the possession and had the Lakers grabbed a rebound after any of the previous three attempts the Lakers would have won that game.
So why do the Lakers struggle so much on their defensive glass? I see two primary causes. 1) Not utilizing their best front-line and 2) Ron Artest
The Lakers top defensive rebounders are Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. When Gasol is on the floor with Odom or Bynum the team grabs roughly 71% of the defensive rebounds (we're talking Phoenix Suns territory). However when Odom and Bynum are in together the Lakers grab a remarkable 81% of the defensive rebounds. That figure of 81% would lead the league in that category by a significant margin. Teams just don't get second chances when Bynum and Odom are on the floor. Ironically, it was Gasol and Odom on the floor that final possession against the Spurs.
As for Ron Artest, he just can't jump. The guy can't elevate anymore to grab rebounds. In fact, Ron Artests current defensive rebound rate of 7.2% puts him behind Derek Fisher (7.3%) and Steve Blake (10.5%). He is a huge reason for the Lakers struggles on the glass.
That is one reason that the acquisition of Carmelo would make sense. Carmelo Anthony is one of the best (of not the best) rebounding small forwards in the league. His defensive rebound rate of 19.5% is not much lower than Pau Gasol's 20.2%. So while Ron Artest is a better on-ball defender, Carmelo's superior rebouding and offensive skills would significantly improve the Lakers.
The problem is that whatever gains the Lakers make with the upgrade at the SF position they most certainly will be hurt on the front line. They will lose their best rebounder and defensive player in Bynum. It is for this reason that I suggest that Gasol be traded rather than Bynum.
So why Gasol instead?
Here are the Lakers offensive and defensive efficiency stats by two-man combination of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom with the other three starters (Fisher, Bryant, and Artest):
|Combination||Possessions||Off. Eff.||Def. Eff.||Net. Eff|
When holding the other three players fixed, the combination of Odom and Bynum is significantly better than either combination with Gasol. Interestingly, the difference is solely attributable to the defensive end where the 91.8 rating would be the best in the league. However, with Gasol on the floor the Lakers defense is good but not great.
Offensively there appears to be no loss in efficiency either. When Gasol is focused and aggressive he brings a new dimension to the team and the Lakers become nearly unguardable. But when he is not aggressive the offense really struggles. If Bynum were to be traded then Gasol would be the center full-time and he hasn't shown a desire to do the heavy banging that position would require in the playoffs (against Howard or Perkins for example).
If the Lakers do play just as well, if not better, with an Odom-Bynum combination as they do with Gasol, then why not trade him? The biggest difference between including Gasol in a trade over Bynum is actually the additional pieces that can be had with such a trade. I would not suggest a Gasol for Carmelo deal straight up.
Additional Pieces -
Bynum currently makes less money ($13.8 Million) than Carmelo does ($17.1 Million) and given that the Lakers do not have many other tradeable assets it would be very difficult for the Lakers acquire any other player who can contribute, especially a PG or another center to replace Bynum. Pau Gasol, on the other hand, makes $17.8 Million meaning the Lakers could take back additional salary and possibly work another impact player into the deal.
More incentive for Denver -
While Bynum is certainly a player that many orginizations want, Denver already has a very solid center in Nene and neither Nene or Bynum could slide over to the PF spot meaning that Nene would probably have to be traded (or Bynum again for a different player). However if Gasol were on the table the Nuggets could be enticed by idea of a frontline combination of Gasol and Nene and the mismatches it would create. If that option were on the table the Nuggets may be inclined to sweeten the pot a little for the other parties involved in the trade.
So without further ado...
The trade proposal- http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=4aqeyqn
Gasol, Walton, and Artest to the Nuggets
Anthony, Billups, Harrington, and Brad Miller to the Lakers
Ebanks, Brown, and Caracter to Houston plus a couple of draft picks.
What does it mean for Houston?
The Rockets are essentially trading Brad Miller, their back-up center with 3 years left on his contract, for two very inexpensive prospects (Ebanks and Caracter), a very solid back-up shooting guard (Shannon Brown) with a favorable contract, 1 year at only $2.1 Million, and some draft picks (probably one from Denver and one from LA). This would position the Rockets better as they would have more cap flexibility and future picks to use as they build the team around a new core of Scola and Martin. Brad Miller is not in their long term plans.
What does is mean for Denver?
Denver would have a very impressive core to build around. Their frontline would instantly be one of the best in the league with a Nene and Gasol combination. They would have Lawson and Afflalo in the back court and another wing to be named later. They would have moved the bad Harrington contract (5 years @ 5.7M) for the shorter term deals of Walton (3 years) and Artest (4 years). This additional flexibility and the inclusion of the much more desireable Gasol would cost them Billups and a draft pick (or two).
They would be in a great position to rebuild on the fly as they would have 4 solid starters (Nene, Gasol, Afflalo, and Lawson) and only have $53 Million of salary and possibly be under the salary cap depending on the results of the new CBA. This would be a great deal for a team trying to part ways with a star that wants to leave.
What does is mean for LA?
Obviously the Lakers are getting Carmelo, the biggest impact piece coming to the Lakers. The upgrade offensively over Artest can't be understated. All those wide open shots that Artest gets would now be Anthony's. Teams wouldn't be able to key in on Kobe late in close games the way they do now. Defensively, Anthony may actually be an improvement as the Lakers need help rebouding at the SF position and Anthony is one of the best (see above). This would be a huge upgrade at the position, both immediately and long term.
The second biggest piece of the trade is the acquisition of a bonafied quality PG in Chauncy Billups. Billups would be the ideal PG for the Lakers. Defensively he would be an improvement over Fisher and Blake and offensively he is the best shooter of the three. He also has experience in the playoffs and doesn't fold under pressure. The Lakers starting line-up would finally have no weak links. Any double team of Kobe or Carmelo would result in either a three by Billups or easy baskets at the rim by Odom or Bynum.
The third piece (and probably underrated aspect) would be the acquisition of Brad Miller. Brad Miller has long been considered one of the best passing centers in the league. His passing skills and ability to shoot from 15+ feet would make him an ideal center for the triangle offense. He would also restore the depth on the front line with Gasol no longer there. The only way to pry him from Houston is to make it worth their while and Denver may be inclined to give up draft picks in exchange for dumping Harrington.
The last piece is Harrington and undertunately he is a bad contract and an average contributor. He would see some minutes as a back-up PF and SF but most likely would simply be collecting a check (a la Luke Walton). The Lakers would agree to take him as incentive for Denver to include Billups and to trade some draft picks. The Lakers would also be moving the contracts of Walton and Artest.
Immediate Impact -
The immediate impact is that the Lakers now have a starting line-up of Billups, Bryant, Anthony, Odom, and Bynum. This line-up is actually improved over the current Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol, and Bynum combination and may be better than the line-up of the Bynum for Carmelo trade as the improvement of Billups over Fisher is larger than the downgrade of Gasol to Odom.
Offensively this Lakers team would be the best unit that we have put on the floor since the Showtime era and may even be better. The Lakers would have shooting to spread the floor, multiple guys who can not only create their own shots but also create opportunities for others off the dribble, and at least two players who demand a double team. If the Lakers are currently tied for 1st in the league in offensive efficiency then this unit would league the lead by a decent margin.
Defensively this Lakers team would be championship caliber. The Lakers two biggest weakness has been rebounding the basketball. Even with the subpar defense at the PG spot, the occassionally relaxed defense from Kobe, and regression that Ron Artest has had the Lakers are still one of the top teams in making the opposition miss and preventing them from getting to the line. Certainly bringing in Billups and Carmelo would not make the on the ball defense any worse so the Lakers exceptional performance to date in those areas should continue. However the rebounding would be by far the biggest area of improvement. The Lakers would be replacing PG level rebounding from Artest with a SF in Anthony who rebounds at almost the same rate as Gasol. Couple that with Odom, Bynum, and Kobe's above average rebounding and the Lakers would certainly fix the one area of defense that has killed them.
The Lakers would also still have quality depth with Miller, Barnes, Fisher, Blake, Harrington, Ratliff, and Smith. This proposed version of the Lakers would still have a great shot at the title.
Future Impact -
The best part of this deal may be the potential future moves in the following season. There have been rumblings out of Orlando that Dwight Howard would not be opposed to going to another team if he feels that Orlando can't win a title. The Lakers were on his short list of teams. The most obvious trade scenario would be built around Howard for Bynum with other pieces included. If the Lakers make a trade with Denver in which Bynum is traded then this scenario is off the table. However, if Gasol is sent to Denver so that the Lakers retain Bynum then he could be used later should the Magic's Superman suddenly want to switch coasts.
In fact, if that opportunity were to present itself the Lakers could be in a position next year to offer Bynum, the expiring contract of Billups, and Al Harrington to Orlando for Dwight Howard and other pieces (perhaps a 3rd team for a PG). Such a trade would set the "post Kobe" era in motion with a core of Howard, Odom, and Melo.
Obviously these are big decisions going forward for Lakers management and while Bynum's name always pops up, I thought it would be interesting to show the team may be better off by moving Gasol instead given the additions players that can be aquired a deal.