One side effect of the Los Angeles 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.
You've already seen the deals that sprung from the minds of WildYams, Ben R and DexterFishmore. Now, peep the ideas of Actuarial Sound, and two versions of the same basic idea from myself. 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.
Golden State Warriors receive Pau Gasol (from Lakers)
Houston Rockets receive Andris Biedrins (from Warriors)
Los Angeles Lakers receive Dorell Wright & Charlie Bell (from Warriors), Brad Miller & Goran Dragic (from Rockets)
Why each team would do the trade:
Warriors - They are getting the best player in the deal (by far) in Pau Gasol. The Warriors would have a great core of Stephen Curry, Monte Ellis, David Lee, and Pau Gasol. The upgrade to Gasol at the center spot would vastly improve the interior defense while also making the offense even more potent. Both Gasol and David Lee can play away from the basket providing the Ellis the room needed to attack the rim. The Warriors would be in need of a small forward with Wright's departure and have very little depth on the bench. They could choose to not resign Troy Murphy and Vladimir Radmanovic and free up roughly $7 Million in cap space to sign one or two solid bench players. As for the small forward position, they could address that need with the 11th pick in this year's draft by taking Kansas' Marcus Morris, a 6'9" SF/PF that most mock drafts project will be available at that point. This trade would instantly make the Warriors better while giving them a core to build around for longer term success. A few seasons of filling out the bench depth could easily make them contenders.
Rockets - Despite Yao's recent comments that his recovery is going well (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6567138), Rocket's management knows it can't put the team's hopes on is his ever fragile frame. Unfortunately they don't have much in terms of quality centers to replace Yao either. Their current choices are Brad Miller (who is 34 years old), Chuck Hayes (who is only 6'6"), and Hasheem Thabeet (who is, well, not very good). It is clear that addressing the center position should be the Rockets number one priority and this deal does that. Andris Biedrins is a much better center than the three aforementioned players. He is an excellent finisher around the basket, a solid rebounder, and good shot blocker. He is only 24 years old and has a very reasonable salary of $9 Million per year for the next three seasons (the third being a player option). This is essentially a Biedrins for Miller swap and Biedrins is the better and younger player so the Rockets would likely jump at this trade.
The other Rockets piece involved is Goran Dragic, the former Suns back-up PG who is well known for his skirmishes with Sasha Vujacic. He is only 25 years old, is very solid in a back-up role, and makes only $2 Million per year. The Rockets may be hesitant to part with such a quality back-up PG with a favorable contract. The Lakers would be best served to leverage the fact that Biedrins is the better player in the deal for Houston and try to get Dragic included to even the trade out. The Lakers (or even the Warriors) could also include a future draft pick as well to sweeten the pot and entice the Rockets. Either way it is not a deal breaker. The Rockets will be below the salary cap and can thus take back the larger contract in Biedrins. The deal can still be done with or without Dragic, but it would be in the Lakers best interests to try.
Lakers - The Lakers are giving up the best player in the deal by far but are getting back numerous quality players to address their many needs. The typical rules of trading is to not give up a great player to get back a handful of solid players as great players are harder to come by. The Lakers however are in a unique position as they possess two all-star caliber players in Odom and Bynum who could easily play more minutes. Odom played only 32 minutes per game during the regular season and an even lower 28 during the playoffs. Bynum similarly played 28 in the regular season and 32 in the playoffs. No other team in the league plays all-star caliber players for so few minutes. There are simply not enough minutes in a game to give the all three front-line players the minutes they should be playing. This deal removes the log-jam, freeing up Odom and Bynum for more minutes. During the regular season the Lakers best line-ups were actually the ones where Odom and Bynum were in the game instead of a combination featuring Gasol. The reason was the defense improves drastically with Odom on the floor as he is agile enough to guard smaller wing players, quick enough to close out on shooters, and long enough to be a force on the glass. Odom also put up nearly identical offensive numbers as Gasol did (per minute) and his threat as a three point shooter stretches the defense even further creating more room for Bynum and Kobe to work their post-up games. Also by moving Gasol, Bynum instantly becomes #2 on the pecking order and the increased offensive touches would likely keep him happy and when Bynum is happy on offense he becomes a dominant defensive presence.
The biggest reason to not trade Gasol (or any of the three front-line players) is that the Lakers have no depth at those positions. This deal fixes that by bringing in Brad Miller, a tough veteran center who can fill the 10 to 15 minutes per game that Bynum is on the bench. Miller is the ideal back-up center for the Lakers. He has a high basketball IQ, is arguably the best passing big man in the game (yes... even better than Pau), and he can step out and hit jump shots with great accuracy to keep the floor spaced. These attributes would allow him to easily be integrated into the triangle should the Lakers decide to keep that offense in place. The Lakers would lose some depth at the PF position as Miller can't slide to that spot like Gasol could, but either Artest or Barnes could easily spend 10 to 12 minutes per game playing that spot against the oppositions back-up power forward without their being a significant mismatch. The Lakers could also look to free-agency for a back-up PF with the MLE (assuming it remains an option in the new CBA).
The best part of the deal is that it addresses the Lakers three biggest weaknesses: three point shooting, point guard, and bench depth. The biggest is three point shooting and what better way to fix that problem than to bring in the player who led the league in threes made, Dorell Wright. Not only is Dorell Wright an excellent three point shooter, but he is 6'9" and athletic. His ESPN player profile says "tall wing who rebounds well and uses length to bother shots on defense." Most of the leagues sharp shooters are sub-par defenders. Dorell Wright is not of that mold and would vastly improve the Lakers both in the short term and long term (he's only 25).
Charlie Bell would have to be included for the deal to work financially but given he only played 9 minutes game last year behind backing up Monte Ellis, I doubt the Warriors would object to including him. He would be a great back-up shooting guard in place of Shannon Brown. He is a solid three point shooter (36.1% for his career) and a decent defender. His ESPN player profile says, "Hard-nosed, strong defender who can check wings despite giving up inches... Decent outside shooter off catch with quick release." Does that not sound like the ideal back-up SG for the Lakers? If that isn't good enough, he is a $4 Million expiring contract at the end of next season so the Lakers could use him in a mid-season trade with a team looking to reduce salary or cut him at the end of the season themselves. He would provide a short term improvement at the back-up SG position without a contract that could pose long term problems. Clearly a win-win for the Lakers. Ironically, he is from Michigan State and the Lakers would likely cut or trade Shannon Brown if they acquired Bell, essentially trading one Spartan for another.
Finally we come to Goran Dragic. If the Lakers could entice the Rockets to include him in the deal then the Lakers would be able to officially check off all three boxes on the "need to improve" list with this single trade. Dragic certainly won't be confused with an elite point guard but the Lakers don't necessarily need one. His player profile reads, "Athletic left-hander who likes to break down opponents off dribble and attack... Fouls too often, but has ability to be good defender and rebounds well for size...". He is also an excellent three point shooter with a career average of 37.8%. His contract would have only one year left for $2M meaning the Lakers could cut ties quickly if it did not work out. He presents an immediate improvement with the potential for long term gains as well with minimal risk, the ideal situation for the Lakers.
In summary it is never easy to trade a player of Gasol's caliber but the Lakers have few other assets that other teams would want. This trade would significantly improve the Lakers weakest area, three point shooting. The Lakers four players being acquired are all above average three point shooters (even Miller his 37% last season). The three wing players are all decent defenders as well. The two players in the trade that would likely be starters (Wright and Dragic) are both only 25 years old making the Lakers much younger and athletic for as the team transitions to future post-Kobe era. The deal doesn't take back any bad long-term deals giving the Lakers flexibility to make future roster moves should they present themselves.
Last but certainly not least, with Jerry West now having a front office role with the Warriors he can surely assist his former team in facilitating the trade. If the Lakers then hire former Rockets coach Rick Adelman it will be the ultimate LAL-GSW-HOU trade and would make all conspiracy theorists claim it was the plan all along.
Before I even throw out either of my suggestions, let me say this up front. I don't particularly like either of my deals, because the player I'm trading away is my favorite on the roster, and he is also the soul of the team. I have serious chemistry-related concerns with dealing him away, and that is for a team which already has some concerns in that regard.
All that said, in analyzing what the Lakers can do in the open market, I see a few prevalent truths that have led to me to these suggestions. They are:
- The Lakers are in need of youth and athleticism on the perimeter.
- Outside of their top 4 players, the Lakers have no trade value whatsoever
- Unless in a deal for Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum should be considered untradeable
- You can't trade Kobe Bryant
- Pau Gasol is the most irreplaceable player on the roster
The first four truths have been made apparent in the deals suggested by every other member of this committee, so let me spend some time on the 5th. I believe the Lakers cannot trade Pau Gasol, because to do so is to get rid of not one, but two tremendously skilled and valuable players. Obviously, Gasol is just one man (and in the playoffs was significantly less than that one), but what has made the Lakers special over the past few seasons has been their irrepressible length, and Gasol is at the center of that uniqueness. Because he can effectively play at center and power forward, he allows the Lakers to have two of the three of himself, Bynum and Lamar Odom on the court at all times. Take Drew away, and you need only replace him with another great center to maintain the rotation (in reality, just one exists, which is what makes Drew so difficult to deal). Take Lamar away, and another power forward is all that's necessary. But take Pau away, and suddenly you have two different positions to deal with replacing. There is no player in the league that can play the 4 and the 5 as well as Pau can, so trading away Gasol, more than any other player on the entire roster, will change the way the Lakers intend to be successful.
Because of truth 5, I am left with only one conclusion. Lamar Odom is the only member of the tradeable 4 that is expendable. Add to that the fact that Lamar is coming off of his best season as a pro (which means the Lakers would be selling high, instead of low with Pau Gasol), that Lamar's inconsistency played a fairly large role in the Lakers fall from grace in the playoffs (certainly not moreso than Pau's, but probably on par with Ron Artest's). And while this may be a selfish concern on my part, and not necessarily all that beneficial to the Lakers overall play, if I never have to hear the name Khloe Kardashian again, I will be a happy man.
So, without further ado, and with the idea of keeping the team's core principles in play while trying to improve on their weaknesses, here are my suggestions:
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague
Atlanta Hawks receive: Lamar Odom
Why the Hawks do this trade:
As has been said so many times before in this little exercise, the Hawks do this trade because they get the best player in the deal, by a fairly significant margin. With Lamar Odom in the fold, the Hawks can set up a poor man's small version of the Lakers dominant front court rotation with Al Horford, Josh Smith, and LO. Jeff Teague was little used, and Kirk Hinrich played well for the Hawks in the half season he was with the team. Williams' minutes can be replaced by the flexibility of the Hawks roster, with Joe Johnson able to play up the 3 in a small rotation, or Josh Smith able to play down to the 3 in a big rotation. The Hawks would need to pick up someone else to either start or pickup the backup minutes, but this deal might be good enough to be worth it from their perspective.
Why the Lakers do this trade:
The Lakers need youth and athleticism, and those are the primary attributes of both Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague. At this point, we can all agree that Atlanta's choice of Williams as the 2nd overall pick was a monumental mistake, but he is 6'9 220, and can defend three positions pretty well. He is long and athletic, and he is 24 years old, still capable of developing the weaker parts of his game (i.e. outside shooting). Regarding that weakness, he shot 45.8% from the floor and 33.6% from three point range last season, and while those numbers are not great, they are on par with Lamar Odom's career averages (because, remember, Lamar Odom played well above the norm last season).
As for Teague, he was extremely impressive when thrust into the starting lineup against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, scoring 15 points per game on 54% shooting. Also, if we look at the higher sample size regular season, he can shoot decently from three point range (37.5% on the season). Teague is exactly the type of guard who has given the Lakers so much trouble over the years, so he might be able to do a better job of staying in front of quick guards on the perimeter.
There is one glaring problem with this deal ... the players just don't quite fit. Both Teague and Williams fit the criteria of the types of players the Lakers should be looking to build depth with, but this trade thins out the Laker roster in the area where its already thinnest (the Lakers' talent in the front court is the best in the league, but only having three reliable players to play those two positions also makes it quite thin), and the minutes those players would take already belong to players who aren't going anywhere. It would leave the Lakers with 3 point guards and 4 small forwards, and none of those 7 players would be all that important to the Lakers' success. That just doesn't make sense ... and that brings me to the next idea.
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson
Charlotte Bobcats receive: Lamar Odom
Why the Bobcats do this trade:
See above. Lamar Odom is far better than Thomas or Henderson, and since Odom would replace Thomas in a like for like trade, the whole deal hinges on the availability of Henderson, who has not done enough to warrant turning the deal down.
Why the Lakers do this trade:
Even more youth and athleticism than the previous trade idea, and in the positions (PF to replace Lamar, SG to (hopefully) replace Shannon Brown) that fit as well. Athletically speaking, Thomas and Henderson are off the charts. Thomas can leap out of a building, and will be a Serge Ibaka type off the bench, providing weakside protection for the 2nd unit. Henderson is a scrapper and very solid defender who will do all the things that Shannon Brown never did, like fight over screens. Henderson is raw, but he at least utilizes his athleticism at the highest possible level.
The problem is, neither one of these guys addresses one of the major weaknesses to the Lakers roster, which is outside shooting. Henderson doesn't have an outside shot in his repertoire, and Thomas loves the long two point jumper quite a bit, with only middling success. Also, since Thomas is replacing LO in a like for like switch, his rebounding is far below what one would expect for someone of his size and leaping ability. Considering how important LO was in helping the Lakers to control the glass, inserting Thomas into the lineup would be a blow there unless he improves, and the idea of a Gasol-Thomas front court doesn't exactly inspire confidence right now.
On the whole, the players from the first trade fit the Lakers needs better, while the players from the second trade fit the team's positional openings better. Neither one is a surefire win-win deal, but these trades do the most to fix what ails the Lakers while doing the least damage to what makes the Lakers a great team in the first place.