Once again many members of the Laker Nation are calling for blood. Once again they call for a trade of the former all star 7 footer Pau Gasol. There is reason behind it, he has not played with the same fire and determination that he once displayed and he seems lost on the court often. He has become an inconsistent scoring option and a defensive liability and his hustle has left much to be desired. The justifications for trading him are valid and, depending on the personnel we would acquire from a trade involving Pau I can see myself nodding in agreement with the Lakers front office.
The likelihood of Pau being traded is not very high though, at least, not yet. First and foremost, Steve Nash made it very clear that he wished to play with Pau, he explicitly demanded that Pau be kept on the team, and the Lakers front office agreed and have committed to keeping Pau, at least on the public front. If, after Nash's return though, Gasol continues to under perform, a trade seems likely in my eyes, especially with the clock of father time continually ticking away on the championship window of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and MWP. The Lakers only have a couple of years left in the tank before they have to rebuild from scratch or rebuild around Howard depending on the outcome of this year. There is no time to drag along a player who, despite being extremely gifted, has shown lackluster effort and an inability to adjust to a system other then the triangle offense. Pau is certainly not untouchable and if there is a piece on the Lakers that will most likely be moved, it is Pau.
The first trade scenario that I see as the most likely, and frankly the best for the Lakers
This trade is the most profitable, the smartest and the most likely out of any possible deal that would involve moving Pau Gasol. Josh Smith as a versatile athletic, high flying and exiting power forward who can knock down the occasional three. While not a knockdown 3 point shooter he takes just shy of 2 3 point shots per game this year, hitting an impressive 40% from behind the arc. This gives Dwight a floor spacer so that he can operate in the post in the way in which he is most comfortable from years of playing in Orlando with floor spacing bigs. Smith also offers extreme athleticism. Smith is known for his high flying style of play and would bring the showmanship back into a staples center that, when donning the purple and gold has become known as a retirement home. Smith is also a defensive stopper, he is a quick power forward who can defend the best of them and has a career average of 2.2 BPG. A tandem of Josh Smith and Dwight Howard would be the most athletic, explosive, and the best defensive frontcourt in the league. Kyle Korver is Mr. Splash man, if there is one thing the Lakers could use it is more perimeter offensive firepower, something that Korver is more then capable of doing with his career 3pt FG% at 41% on just over 4 attempts per game. The Hawks have openly gone after Gasol in the past and Gasol playing the 5 spot on the Hawks would allow Al Horford to play his natural position at the 4 and would give the Hawks the most dominant offensive paint presence in the eastern conference. This trade is profitable to both teams and would make the most sense out of all possibilities.
Just think of J Smoove and Superman going up for lobs from Nash, the Lob City title would no longer apply to the Clippers. The Lakers defense would be stacked, with both Howard and Smith averaging over 2 blocks per game in their careers. Our offense would become showtime again.
Bargnani is a true floor spacing power forward, when he was drafted some pegged him as the future Dirk Nowitzky. While he hasn't lived up to the expectation he is certainly a solid perimeter player and when he is on his game, a lethal outside threat. Bargnani would fit in extremely well with the Lakers, Nash, throughout his career has played with floor spacing 4's while feeding a big man who could score in a 1 on 1 situation such as Amar'e Stoudemire. With Bargnani on the Lakers Howard would be able to match up one on one in the paint and dominate defending bigs. The downside though is Bargnani has never been and will never be a good rebounder, or defender. While the offense would run smoothly with Bargnani the defense and the rebounding of the team would take a serious blow. The other part of this trade is an equally important piece. Jose Calderon is an extremely valuable player, a combo guard who can give you double double figures every night. Earlier this season Calderon had 17 assists (against Utah) followed by 18 assists three games later (against Washington) in the middle of the 6 game stretch where Calderon had 5 double doubles, a triple double and one game where he was one assist shy of a double double. This guy can ball, he is a genius playmaker and he can run the 2 guard because of his size. He is lethal from distance and with Calderon on the Lakers Bench, the second unit would always find ways to score. He is an efficient scorer a good leader and a good presence in the locker room and his assist to turnover ratio is the best in the NBA. The more important improvement from this trade would be the acquisition of Calderon, this guy is something special, he is 8th on the assist per game ladder and he is coming of the bench and playing 26, or 27 minutes a night playing with a team of scrubs. This guy is the insurance the Lakers need for a Steve Nash who needs to play light minutes and who can get hurt easily.
This trade gives the Lakers two stretch forwards. The Positives here are numerous, with this trade the Lakers shed excess payroll, aquire younger talent and give Dwight Howard relief in the post with Marvin Williams able to play the small and the big forward, and Paul Millsap able to shoot occasionally from the perimeter and mid range. These guys can play, Williams can hit threes and they give the Lakers what they need, which is more speed on the break, more perimeter shooting and relief for D12 in the post. Marvin Williams is not automatic from behind the arc but defenses cannot leave him open behind the line or they will get shelled. Marvin Williams has, thus far in this season averaged a solid 35% from deep and is coming off of a season in which he averaged 38% from behind the line. Millsap is a banger and a hustle man, something the Lakers have been lacking of late. He is a great post defender and can hit free throws at a reliable clip. This trade also makes sense for Utah, not only do they acquire a perfect compliment for Al Jefferson but they also get a reliable point guard who can come of the bench and run the offense when Mo Williams is off of the floor which is more then can be said for Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.
The reason I will not discuss a trade for K Love and Ryan Anderson is because it isn't happening. If you believe the Twolves will trade the best power forward in the game for anything less then Dwight Howard, you are wrong. Ryan Anderson is having a breakout season and is lighting it up from downtown, shooting 47% from three and averaging almost 18 PPG, if you think the hornets, who are obviously thinking long term as their team is far from contention will trade a young, blooming power forward for an old and waning star in Gasol who will be out of the league in 3-4 years you are completely wrong.