Lakers Trade Rumors: Gasol Most Likely To Join Raptors, Timberwolves?
The Lakers are in as much disarray as they have ever been in. Will the Lakers finally pull the trigger on trading Gasol? (Photo: Reuters)
The Los Angeles Lakers are an all-around mess right now, but the one player seemingly getting the most flak for failure is Pau Gasol. As a result, the trade rumors that have surrounded Gasol over the past few years have currently begun to swirl as fast as they have ever done before.
Some might cut the Spaniard some slack. After all, the Lakers have had two different coaches and have utilized two different systems of basketball in the first 19 games of their season, so there was bound to be an adjustment period for everyone, not just Gasol. Plus, both Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the two point guards capable of running coach Mike D'Antoni's offense and helping Gasol thrive in the pick-and-roll, are out with injuries.
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On the other hand, Gasol has played inconsistently on both ends of the floor and looks like he is behind his fellow teammates in adapting. Basically, he is 32, has two sore knees and is off to the worst start of his career in field-goal percentage (42 percent) and a scoring (12.6 points per game).
Those making that argument also feel a trade is not only warranted, but also most likely imminent - that is, only after Nash arrives, as the Lakers have told reporters. But, no matter when Nash returns, it would seem that Dec. 15 would be the day for the Lakers to really start being proactive about trading Gasol, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com points out, because that's the day that last summer's free agents finally become trade-eligible and join already-eligible players in the large pool of trade targets.
There's no question that the Lakers need defensive help, especially on the wing, point guard help and more bench strength. For all those reasons put together, the Lakers are interested in signing Utah Jazz guard Raja Bell, whose agent, Herb Rudoy, is negotiating a buyout with the Jazz. Even at 36 years old, Bell, who played for D'Antoni with the Phoenix Suns, can likely still be a feisty defender that can slow the opposing wing penetration that causes the Lakers defense to collapse and have rotational deficiencies, particularly in the front court.
Bell is also a career 41 percent three-point shooter. Ironically, before Bell signed with the Jazz, Kobe Bryant reached out to him, hoping to convince him to sign with the Lakers. Bell is in the final year of his contract, earning $3.48 million.
As Berger also points out, the short-term answer to the Lakers' needs would be to keep Gasol, since taking on his salary of $19.3 million next season might scare another team, sign Bell after he gets bought out and search the D-League and free agency for a decent point guard, all while waiting for Gasol to get accommodated. However, the Lakers may want to think about getting as much value in return as they can now than later, when there's still a chance things don't mesh.
Despite Gasol's hefty salary, though, which adds to the nearly $80 million on the books for next season, the Lakers can still afford to trade him and take back more salary thanks to their $3 billion local TV deal and a few trade exceptions. Therefore, Gasol can either be shipped to a contender looking for experience and skill to boost its playoff hopes or a team on the cusp of the playoffs looking for a veteran to help make that push.
Two teams most likely to land Gasol this season, although the Lakers have rebuffed them recently, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com, are the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers told the Raptors that they will not consider dealing Gasol until they can "fully assess the roster" after Nash comes back. Still, the most likely destination for Gasol seems like Toronto, which could offer stretch power forward Andrea Bargnani and point guard Jose Calderon in return.
Bargnani is 27 years old, five years younger than Gasol, and makes half as much, although he has one more year on his deal. As a better shooter than Gasol, he would provide the ideal floor spacing that D'Antoni wants to open up the middle for Dwight Howard, thus solving the problem of a clogged paint of two big men.
Meanwhile, Calderon, who is backing up Kyle Lowry anyway, addresses the point guard hole the Lakers want to fill. He is also a good shooter, can attack the basket and play the pick-and-roll.
The Raptors may not want to part with Bargnani, but they may have to in order to get Gasol and win now by adding a veteran with All-Star credentials and championship credentials.
As for the Timberwolves, they would love to have Gasol join fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio and form a core with All-Star forward Kevin Love. But, the Lakers have continued to resist offers revolved around forward Derrick Williams and center Nikola Pekovic.
If the Lakers want to deal with the Timberwolves, they may have to substitute their desire for either Williams or Pekovic with point guard Luke Ridnour, who would be another point guard that could fit D-Antoni's system.
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