According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers’ starting power forward Pau Gasol is not on trading block at this time. Gasol’s recent struggles in coach Mike D’Antoni’s “run and fun” offense have been well documented, but the Lakers seem content in being patient.
With Gasol’s struggles on the court, it seems the collective patience of Lakers fans is growing thin. Not only have Gasol’s statistics drastically declined this season, but his conditioning has also come into question. Gasol has been playing with sporadic effort lately and looks winded at times. The knee tendinitis Gasol has been experiencing recently may have something to do with his inconsistent play, but it may also be contributed the new offensive system.
D’Antoni’s system requires players to play in an up-tempo manner, but Gasol has been unable to do that consistently throughout each game. Gasol is still one of the most skilled big men in the NBA, but will he be able to effectively fit into this system going forward?
The Lakers are currently not engaged in any trade talks for the four-time All-Star power forward. They seem comfortable on waiting until two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash returns to the court, at which time they will most certainly reevaluate the situation. Nash is hoping to return sometime in mid-December, but in the meantime, Gasol must pick up his own play.
So far this season, Gasol is only averaging 13.1 points per game on 42.3% shooting and 9.1 rebounds per game. In fact, his points and shooting percentage are career lows. Along with his deficient offense, his 9.1 rebounds per game average is his lowest since joining the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-08 NBA campaign.
The D’Antoni effect
Not only has Gasol’s production declined, but the Lakers’ offensive focus has also changed. According to ESPN Stats & Info, since D’Antoni has taken over, the Lakers have gone from outscoring opponents by 3.2 points in the paint per game to being outscored by 5.3 per game. Also, the Lakers have gone from the best rebounding team in the league to the 12th-best team.
On the contrary, the Lakers have actually scored 6.4 more points per 100 possessions under D’Antoni then they had under Mike Brown. This increase in points has come in different ways too. Before D’Antoni was hired, the Lakers ran post-up plays 20.6% of the time. After D’Antoni, the Lakers have been running post-ups only 13.9%. The way the Lakers’ offense is being run may have a direct impact on the decline in Gasol’s numbers.
This change in the Lakers’ offensive attack raises the question of whether two low-post players (Dwight Howard and Gasol) are needed in this system. If the offensive structure continues in this manner, especially when Nash returns, the Lakers may need to acquire a more hybrid power forward. A power forward with the ability to run the floor and hit mid to long-range shots with consistency may fit better in D’Antoni’s system. The biggest issue with that is finding a solid player like this and having the assets to acquire him.
The Future for the Spaniard
Although Gasol is not currently on the trading block, that certainly does not mean he won’t be in the future. Two dates for Lakers fans to remember are: December 15th (the day when players who signed a new contract in the offseason can be traded) and February 21st, 2013, the NBA trade deadline. If Gasol continues to struggle in this new system and fails to assimilate well when Nash returns, Gasol could find himself on the trading block once again.
Even if the Lakers do make Gasol available for trade however, there still would be no guarantee of a trade. Not only is Gasol an older player, 32, but his remaining contract is also large at around $38.3M over two years. These points, along with Gasol’s declining production, would make his value very low on the trade market. Not many teams have the ability to take on this much salary, especially with the repeater luxury tax penalty looming for next season.
If the Lakers do eventually decide on trading Gasol, they would most likely not receive equal return. At the moment, the rumors of Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh Smith, Kevin Love and Ryan Anderson all look to have a slim-to-none chance of happening. Besides All-Star power forward Kevin Love, all of those trade scenarios essentially make the Lakers weaker. The Lakers could instead trade Gasol for multiple complementary pieces to better satisfy D’Antoni’s offense, but the Lakers would then lose their primary advantage of length, especially against the likes of Oklahoma City and Miami in the playoffs.
Stranger things have happened (like the trade of Kwame Brown to originally get Gasol to Los Angeles), so for now we will have to wait and see what GM Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president Jim Buss decide to do. The date of December 15th continues to inch closer, but as of right now, no trade of Gasol is imminent.
What do you think Laker Nation? Should the Lakers trade Pau Gasol going forward? Comment below!