One side effect of the Lakers' second-round cratering is that a significant offseason trade now seems fairly plausible. It's one thing to keep the band together when you're coming off a championship parade in June. To do so after your aging roster got swept before even sniffing the conference finals seems an ill-advised triumph of hope over pragmatism. Whether or not you find Magic's "blow it up!" battle cry convincing, there's no question Mitch Kupchak should be banging away on his Blackberry this offseason in the hopes of swinging a deal or two.
Over the weekend, we here at SS&R decided to put our brains together to see what trade ideas we could come up with. As a little roundtable exercise, each writer was challenged to hypothesize one trade he'd like to see the Lakers pull off this summer. There were a few rules. First, each proposed trade has to work under the NBA's cap rules. Second, it has to be a trade you honestly think the other team (or teams) would seriously consider agreeing to. Third, only one of us can trade for Dwight Howard.
After the jump, check out the deals that sprung from the minds of WildYams, Ben R and yours truly. In a later post, we'll hit you with trade ideas from the rest of our crew. If you're Mitch Kupchak reading this, feel free to act on any of these proposals. Our commission is a modest 10 percent of the combined salaries of the players involved, plus statues of all of us outside Staples Center.
Lakers get: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu
Magic get: Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom
As with any Dwight trade proposal, I think the only way anything being proposed would work is if Howard has told the Magic he's going to leave after next season, the way Carmelo Anthony did last year with the Nuggets. I think if Dwight gives the Magic the indication that he'll stay, then there's no way they'd trade him (unless possibly the Lakers offered up something insanely lopsided). Nevertheless, I don't think that even if Dwight says he's going to leave the Magic will simply deal him away for whatever they can get, as they almost surely will have a hell of a bidding war on their hands. We have to assume Orlando will probably only trade him if they can get back a great player or two in return while also being given the opportunity to dump one of their truly horrific contracts (namely Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas) on someone else in the bargain.
Why this works for Orlando: Well, as I said, this only works for Orlando if they know for certain they're going to lose Dwight one way or another in the next calendar year. But if we assume they absolutely know that's going to happen, getting back two great big men is a pretty decent haul. Bynum is two years younger than Dwight but is more polished offensively (though he obviously has the enormous caveat of being frequently injured), and Odom is right in his prime and is coming off of his most productive season in years, if not ever. This also allows the Magic to trade Turkoglu's poisonous contract in exchange for two contracts with a lot of appeal and flexibility. Bynum's deal runs through 2013, but the last year is a team option, so Orlando could terminate early if Bynum suffers yet another horrific injury. Meanwhile Odom's contract also runs through 2013 with the last year being unguaranteed, so Orlando wouldn't be trapped with him either if he regressed badly. In the end, Odom's $25.3 million owed to him through 2013 is far, far more appealing than the $45 million-plus Turkoglu is owed through 2014. Odom and Bynum have already shown how devastating a starting frontcourt combo they can be (we should all remember the pre-Gasol Lakers of 2007-08), and combined with the other starters and depth the Magic have that should be a team nobody can take lightly next year.
Why this works for the Lakers: obviously, the Lakers would be getting back not only the best player in the deal, but quite possibly the best player in the game right now in Dwight Howard. We all know what Howard can do, and that in and of itself should be enough for the Lakers, especially at the thought of being paired in the frontcourt with Pau Gasol. However, Turkoglu shouldn't simply be looked at as a throw-in or a contractual albatross that the Lakers would have to endure for the next few years along with the likes of Luke Walton. Turkoglu has good versatility and can play well at both forward positions. He might not start for the Lakers (he'd have to beat out Ron Artest, since there's no chance of him beating out Pau Gasol), but even as a bench player he could help fill the Sixth Man of the Year-sized void left by the departing Odom. If he did find playing time at the three alongside Howard and Gasol, the Lakers would find they still have the devastating height advantage that they've become accustomed to the last few seasons.
Lakers get: Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Mareese Speights
76ers get: Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Derrick Caracter
Why the Lakers do this: Because it pretty thoroughly resolves the team's problem of a lack of creators from the perimeter. A big reason for the stagnancy in the Lakers' offense is the relative inability of essentially any player outside of Kobe and Odom, who are limited by their knees and focus respectively, to create opportunities for others off the dribble and via the threat of penetration. Both Iggy and Williams are immediate threats in that regard, and bring a notable jolt of athleticism to an otherwise worryingly slow roster. Moreover, Iggy is probably one of the best complementary players in the league, and being miscast as the primary option on a mediocre Philly team sometimes obscures how utterly terrific he would look as the third or fourth option on a better team. Courtesy of his athleticism, he's an excellent slasher, annually one of the best finishers in the league (a staggering 72.6% conversion rate at the rim this year), and an elite perimeter defender who can cover three positions - with all due respect to Artest, Iggy would immediately become the team's principal wing defender. He also is a solid passer off the dribble, with his sole weakness being his lack of a consistent outside shot, which is really the only thing keeping him from being a perennial superstar. In many ways, he's LeBron-lite, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible. Even though he doesn't help the Lakers' spacing issues, he contributes in so many other ways that he would be a tremendous net positive.
Williams isn't the answer at the point guard position but is the bench jitterbug that this team hasn't had since the 2007-08 Bench Mob or, for a brief and glorious month at the start of the year, Shannon Brown. He has outstanding quickness off the dribble, and is a constant threat to break down the defense from the perimeter. Like Iggy, he struggles from the outside, but that's less of a concern when he would be used as a bench energizer with (presumably) whatever long-range threat the Lakers sign or draft this year. He also has half-decent point guard chops, as he showed during the 2009-10 campaign after he took over for the departed Andre Miller, and while that's not a huge concern with this team (as any one of Fisher, Kobe, Odom or Iggy would likely be on the floor with him), it's a nice asset to have and shows that he isn't a one-dimensional gunner. As far as his defensive chops go, Williams is quick but tends to gamble a lot and was misplaced in Philly as an undersized two. The gambling part is fine because the Lakers' defense is designed to allow guards the leeway to do that, but he generally needs to dial back on that a bit.
I was more conflicted with taking Speights or asking Philly for a first round pick this year. In the latter scenario, it's harder to fashion a trade in which the salaries fit unless the Lakers swap Artest for Andres Nocioni. In any case, Speights isn't chopped liver. In every year he's been in the league, he's put up terrific per-minute numbers as a solid offensive option with a decent post game and shooting range out to twenty feet (and the way his game is developing, it isn't far-fetched that he could eventually be shooting from beyond the arc). On the flip side, he's been a pretty terrible defensive player and looks lost on the perimeter, but that's less pronounced when he's on the bench. Personally, I'd prefer the first rounder to give the Lakers' maximum flexibility in the matter (and they could go after more backcourt depth like Boston College's Reggie Jackson or Kansas' Josh Selby if they wanted, while hoping someone like Oakland's Keith Benson falls to them in the second round), but the difficulty in making the salaries match and needing to give Artest up (or having Philly take Walton, which is extremely unlikely) makes it difficult. Regardless, the general goal is to add a solid big to the rotation to fill some of the minutes Pau would be vacating, and Speights fills that nicely.
And obviously, in regards to losing Pau, it's damaging not only due to his skill level but the unique place in the rotation he occupies by being able to switch between either frontcourt position. In other words, losing Pau means that the Lakers have to essentially acquire two backup frontcourt players to compensate for the loss of his role in the rotation. Immediately, parts of his rotation spot would be filled by Bynum and Odom simply playing more minutes (naturally assuming Bynum stays upright), Speights, and Artest or Barnes taking some time as smallball fours (which would become more viable with Williams in the lineup, as he's seen time as a smallball two). It's also less of a problem as the 2011 free agent class includes some half-decent backup fours and fives - Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy, Kwame Brown (!), Nazr Mohammed, Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas, Chuck Hayes, Alex Ajinca, etc. - who could be available for a relatively cheap price. As for Blake and Caracter, their chicken pox and IHOP-loving ways respectively will be missed, but not particularly on the court.
In all, the Lakers would become much more dynamic on the perimeter on both ends, give the featured role in the post by default to Bynum, who showed pretty clearly during the playoffs that he's capable of handling that, and also acquire some relatively young pieces to augment a steadily aging roster. It has less to do with Pau and more with the fact that he's probably our best trade asset capable of refurbishing our rotation in a positive way for both the short and long term.
Why Philly does this: Aside from getting back the best player in the trade who would make them a pretty potent force in the East, assuming Brand's comeback year wasn't a fluke, the trade represents a bit of a transitional stage for Philly. As I mentioned before, Iggy has been miscast as a primary option in Philly's offense and doesn't really show any signs of being able to assume that role. Meanwhile, his contract along with Brand's (who was originally signed to be that primary option) are going to be a long lasting drag on Philly's cap that will limit their flexibility. Obviously, swapping Iggy for Pau doesn't change that calculus as far as salaries go, but it readjusts Philly's rotation in a manner that fixes some of the team's structural problems. Iggy's ball-distributing ways conflicts with Philly's second overall pick Evan Turner, who was also miscast playing off the ball this season due to his lack of range and was most effective at Ohio State when he was able to handle the ball and decide whether to distribute or look for his own shot. Losing Iggy also opens the door for more minutes for Thaddeus Young, who had a breakout year last year and was arguably Odom's biggest competition for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
In terms of how Pau could directly aid Philly, he would presumably start at the five and looks like a fairly solid fit next to either Brand, whom he would start with, or Spencer Hawes, who would move Pau back over to the four. All of them are solid midrange shooters, which means that Pau will essentially have the post for himself. Assuming that this year was an outlier, which I'm willing to bet it was, this gives Philly a solid post option they haven't really had, and Pau's passing ability should work exceptionally well with all the athletes they have on cuts or hitting Jrue Holiday or Jodie Meeks for shots on the perimeter. It looks exceptionally good synergy-wise with Hawes, who is a decent passing big man in his own right, and I could see the two fitting together in a manner similar to what Pau and Odom have done in years past, although obviously on a smaller scale.
Losing Williams hurts a bit with their bench production, and Blake certainly can't replicate that, but with Jrue Holiday looking like a solid prospect at the point, Blake can fill the role of a 10-15 minute backup presumably without much fuss. Also, as Pau fills out Philly's frontcourt rotation, they could look for backcourt help with their first rounder in Washington State's Klay Thompson or Providence's Marshon Brooks, when most mock drafts had them looking at frontcourt options such as Kansas' Markieff Morris. As for Speights, I doubt they remember him after the first five minutes of seeing Pau play. Caracter is filler to make the numbers work, and given his fairly poor showing in the D-League, I doubt he's an NBA prospect, but I suppose it couldn't hurt for Philly to hold on to him with his miniscule salary.
Lakers get: The second overall pick in the draft, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington and Jonny Flynn
Timberwolves get: Pau Gasol
I would not be happy to see Pau go. I'm confident his 2011 postseason was a weird, poorly timed slump and that he has several All-Star years ahead of him. But if you're going to make a big move, there are good reasons to stick Pau on the trading block. He's a hugely valuable commodity who could net the Lakers a tasty haul, and in Bynum and Odom they have guys who can play Pau's positions. Kobe isn't going anywhere. It makes no sense to trade Bynum unless you're getting DH12 in return. Lamar is older and smaller than Pau and won't bring back as much swag. So if the Lakers want to retool quickly (and Dwight's off the table), Pau's the piece they have to dangle.
Minnesota makes gobs of sense as a trade partner. They hold the second pick in the draft, and assuming Cleveland takes Kyrie Irving, that puts them in position to draft Derrick Williams. Draft experts (which I am not) will tell you that Irving and Williams are the only two difference-makers in this year's crop. The problem for David Kahn, though - one of his many problems - is that Minny already has Michael Beasley and Kevin Love stacked up at the positions Williams might play. Also, and this is crucial, the Timberwolves need to win now. They've won 32 games combined the last two seasons, and if Kahn and Kurt Rambis feel like keeping their jobs much longer, they've got to show some forward progress immediately. They should be primed to pay big for a veteran star.
Pau would be perfect - perfect, I say! - for them. They're still running the Triangle apparently, so Pau could be plugged in at center to help the attack start humming. He and Kevin Love would become the best passing frontline in the league. Pau's presence would draw taller defenders away from Love, and Love's passion for rebounding would spare Pau the burden of serving as the primary inside enforcer. Darko Milicic can head to the bench, where he'd actually be one of the league's better backup fives.
The pieces the Lakers get back in my deal solve several problems at once. Derrick Williams would supply them with a desperately needed infusion of young talent. In a couple years he could start alongside Bynum and give the Lakers a devastating one-two punch up front, and in the meantime his offensive skills will restore some sting to the second unit. And hey, if the Cavs do something strange and don't take Irving, there are worse things than having a franchise point guard fall in your lap.
Webster and Ellington would supply three-point shooting to a team that hasn't enjoyed much of it the last few seasons. Ellington's rookie deal runs for three more years. Webster's contract is unguaranteed for 2012-13, so if he doesn't work out the Lakers can either cut him loose or trade him to a team that's looking to cut payroll. As for Flynn, I know he went downhill last season and isn't much resembling the mid-lottery pick he once was, but you know what that's called? Buying low. He's been languishing on an awful squad under the guidance of Kurt Rambis. Give him a change of scenery, a better coach and some decent teammates and I suspect he could turn into something tasty. And if he does, the Lakers finally have the guy to relegate Derek Fisher to the bench.