NBA Talk: One star too many

Posted by Andrew Shi

When it was announced over the summer that Steve Nash had been traded to the Lakers for four future draft picks, teams throughout the league shuddered at the thought of having Nash, as effective as ever, joining the premier Los Angeles team. Then, when Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers, most everyone expected the Lakers in the finals.

The Lakers line up was formidable: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Even former all-star Antwan Jamison had joined the team to come off the bench. It then, of course, came as a surprise when the Lakers quickly accumulated a losing record. They now sit at 10th place in the Western Conference with a 23-26 record and 15 games behind the first ranked San Antonio Spurs.

In defense of the Lakers, they have been plagued with injury, and when they have played together they have shown dominance, but recently coach D'Antoni regulated Gasol to come off the bench because he and Howard show ill compatibility. Although not entirely his fault, Gasol is so far producing numbers well below last season, from 17.4 points to 12.8 points per game, and 10.4 rebounds to 7.9. His rated player efficiency has plummeted from 23.3 to 15.91, from eighth place last season to 112 this season. To be fair, he's not the only one on the Lakers to see their ratings drop. Dwight has gone from fourth 36th and Nash has travelled from 33rd to 92nd. The only star of the show to demonstrate any consistent efficiency is, of course, the perennial all-star candidate, Kobe, who has moved one place up to 11th with a score of 22.88 from 21.4. Still, there seems to be some unknown factor that is hindering their domination. D'Antoni thought it was Howard and Gasol. Perhaps he was correct, in which case an obvious answer is a trade.

Pau Gasol is a highly valuable player, but not more so than a healthy Dwight Howard and likely worth a lot more in a trade than off the bench. The Lakers aren't getting any younger, Gasol is 32, Steve Nash is 38 (and turns 39 on February 7th) and Kobe is 34, and has said in the past that he plans to retire at 36, when his current contract expires. Howard was meant to prudently empower the Lakers with youth. Trading Gasol could do more of the same.

There are three teams that the Lakers should target in a trade for Gasol.

One: Gasol for Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Hornets and a second-round pick. Anderson is a sharp-shooter from the three and of recent, the most-improved player. Coming off the bench for the Hornets he has a player efficiency of 19.46, rating him at 36.

Two: Gasol, Jordan Hill and a second round pick for Josh Smith and Johan Petro. Josh Smith has rumored to wish for a trade. Smith and Howard were childhood friends and are still close. It's likely that their chemistry would be much stronger than Howard's with Gasol

Three: Gasol for Bargnani. Bargnani, the once coveted big man that was to save the Raptors has consistently expressed contempt for his team and a desire to be moved. How well Bargnani would work in Los Angeles is an unknown. Throwing a bunch of stars together clearly doesn't work and a similar problem as the existing one may emerge. Yet, Bargnani does have unbelievable potential and, on paper, a Howard-Bargnani frontcourt might very well be the best in the league.

The Lakers may also want to consider trading Gasol for much lesser forwards from teams that are currently rebuilding and could use the prowess of Gasol and in the process gain some high draft picks. Look at Cleveland Cavalier's recently obtained Mareese Spreights, or the Sacramento King's Jason Thomas.

All in all, management should consider trading Gasol. As of late though, the Lakers have gone on an inspiring win streak that is tepidly igniting the hopes once held at the beginning of the season. Perhaps it would be best to follow this season through, and hold off any trades until the summer, when Howard's contract expires, and the knowledge that Gasol can still be there to hold down the frontcourt will be more comforting than ever.

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