Lakers stuck in a moment they can’t get out of

Pau GasolAre bloggers allowed to paraphrase U2 or can I only quote groups like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Tribe Called Quest or solo acts like Talib Kweli? 

Either way, U2 just happened in this post. It’s also how Los Angeles Lakers fans must feel after seeing there team get embarrassed in the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. 

Assuming they pick up Andrew Bynum’s $16.1 million option (they’re picking up Andrew Bynum’s option), the Lakers will already be about $13 million over next year’s projected salary cap. They won’t have a first round draft pick and thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they’ll only have the $2.5 million mini-mid level exception to try to sign a free agent. That means there’s only one way for the Lakers to get out of this moment they’re stuck in (see, snuck it in again), they have to trade Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum.

That last sentence wasn’t anything earth shattering, but trading one of their two big men really is the only option the Lakers have to turn themselves back in to a title contender.  CBS Senior Blogger Matt Moore compiled a series of tweets from LA writers after meeting with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, which pretty much said changes are coming.  Since he was already traded once in the Chris Paul trade that wasn’t, Gasol has always been the most likely guy to go.  Considering his age and the extra gigantic year he has on his contract, it probably makes more sense for Pau to go before Bynum.  But what’s his trade value?


We heard Kevin Love-Pau Gasol rumors during the season, Derrick Williams and something else for Pau rumors and a few others.  Which of those would make the most sense for the Lakers?  Getting Kevin Love would be a great way to get younger and better spread the floor, but does that resolve the issue of depth for L.A.?  Not really and it’s also incredibly iffy as to whether the T’Wolves would even go for that trade.  What about Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Luke Ridnour and Brad Miller’s retired contract for Pau? It’d give the Lakers more athleticism, more floor spacing and some point guard depth, not to mention the sheer joy of having Steve Blake and Ridnour on the same team! But Williams, while full of potential, is still very raw and Johnson is just this side of being a bust so is that really something the Lakers want to risk while they’re still chasing a title? Maybe they do something like Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Ed Davis for Gasol and Josh McRoberts?  This would probably fix any offensive issues they have but this makes them even worse defensively.  The point is this exercise is tough because you’re trying to make the Lakers a better team offensively and defensively as well as adding depth to a team you’re still trying to make a title contender by trading one guy.  On top of that, that one guy’s trade stock is lower now than it has been since the Lakers traded for him in 2008.

Let’s discuss the merits of Pau Gasol.  Most importantly it doesn’t appear this guy gives a crap about being the second option behind Kobe, something that can’t be said for Bynum.  Second, he’s probably the most versatile big in the league who averaged 17 points and ten rebounds in what was a “down” year for him.  Finally, he has two years left on his contract, which makes him cheaper than Bynum long term, who is due for an extension either this summer or a new contract in 2013.  Gasol has been the consummate professional throughout this season, a season where he dealt with rumor after rumor and a completely new role on the team.

The case for trading Bynum is a little more straight forward.  First, you might be able to get Dwight Howard or Deron Williams for him, which means he’s worth more than Pau.  If you can’t get another superstar, you can definitely get some good stuff for him.  Would Atlanta trade Al Horford and Jeff Teague for Bynum?  Horford and Gasol would give you two versatile bigs that don’t need the ball to make an impact.  The other obvious pluses to trading Bynum are that you get rid of a guy that clearly has a lack of respect for head coach Mike Brownm so you clear the locker room of that problem and Bynum’s injury history can’t be overlooked.  Do you really want to sign a guy to five years, $80 million with those knees and attitude.  Being a cautious guy, I’d let that be someone else’s problem.

It’s completely understandable if Pau Gasol gets traded instead of Andrew Bynum.  It makes the most sense because you don’t get rid of potential franchise, 24 year old centers.  However, trading Bynum will get you back better pieces, pieces who are likely more ready for an NBA championship run.  Just something to think about while you’re thinking it’s a slam dunk that Gasol is gone (still, he’s probably the guy to go).