L.A. now favorites with Gasol
posted: Friday, February 1, 2008 | Feedback | Print Entry
I think Pau Gasol might win a playoff game now. And I think Kobe might finally back off that trade demand.
The brilliant trade the Lakers made today, in which they traded a sack of leftovers to Memphis for the Spanish power forward, is a far better move than anything they could have done with Jason Kidd and puts the finishing touches on a seemingly overnight transformation from one-man team into title-contending juggernaut.
Yes, it cost them a bit of their future, but if you're playing for right now, this is about as good a right now move as a team could make.
Gasol is vastly underrated because he's played in a low-profile market and his team hasn't been any good the past two years. He's been one of the most consistently productive power forwards in basketball for the past half decade, with a PER above 20 for six straight seasons, and at 27 he should have several good years left.
Yes, he's a little soft. He's also one of the quickest 7-footers in the league and can shoot, handle and pass. That last item is important -- he'll share the ball and play nice with Kobe, and he'll be very effective from the high post in the triangle while Andrew Bynum takes the low block.
As for the soft part, that should be a lot less of an issue now that he's finally surrounded by big guys who can handle the dirty work. His softness was a much bigger problem on a Memphis team laden with other softies than it will be if Andrew Bynum and Ronny Turiaf have his back.
The cost is reasonable, too. The two first-rounders figure to be in the late 20s now that L.A. has assembled such a juggernaut. Javaris Crittenton, though a good prospect, would have been competing with Kobe and Jordan Farmar for minutes over the next couple years. And as for Marc Gasol ... he might be a decent role player down the road, but Pau got the good genes in that family.
Can the Lakers win the title with this team? Absolutely. That doesn't mean they will, mind you, but L.A. has the best team on paper once Bynum comes back. The lineup of Gasol, Bynum, Lamar Odom, Kobe and Derek Fisher, backed by one of the league's deepest benches, should strike fear in the hearts of other Western teams -- especially with Phil Jackson coaching them. Given how even things have been in the West so far, you'd have to look at L.A. as the favorite.
I understand this trade from Memphis's side as well. This was about as good as they could reasonably hope to do for Gasol -- two draft picks, two prospects and cap relief is a nice haul. And that's what a good trade is in the NBA -- both teams come out of it better than they went in. It happens less often than you'd think.
But long-term, the outcome of this trade hinges on what the Grizzlies can accomplish this summer. Memphis should have about $15 million in salary cap space as the result of this deal and the recent buyout of Damon Stoudamire, depending on where next year's number comes in and what the cap hold is for their draft pick. That should make the Griz the only player on the market capable of offering a max-contract.
However, having max cap space and using it to sign a star player are two very different things. The Griz need to hope somebody like Elton Brand or Gilbert Arenas is willing to take their money, otherwise they'll have a hard time getting back equal value on this deal.
In the meantime, Memphis gets some other assets -- the draft choices, Crittenton (whom I presume they'll audition as a 2 guard since they're already crowded at the point), and down the road the younger Gasol. Additionally, the trade opens playing time for promising forward Hakim Warrick. The Griz were 13-31 with Gasol, so it's hard to argue they erred in getting rid of him.
This probably won't be the end of the road as far as that goes either. GM Chris Wallace is in his first year and is obviously using their struggles as an opportunity to reshape their roster. Already, a side deal has been reported that sends Stromile Swift to New Jersey for Jason Collins. Don't be surprised if Mike Miller and Darko Milicic have new homes soon as well.