Friday, February 01, 2008

Lakers Get Gasol

ESPN is reporting that the Lakers and Grizzlies have agreed to a deal that sends Pau Gasol to L.A. in exchange for Kwame Brown (and his expiring contract), rookie Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie's corpse - whoops, sorry - contract, the rights to Marc Gasol (kind of weird), and future first round picks in 2008 and 2010.

I'm not sure what is more interesting here - the fact that this trade happened or that Henry Abbott over at True Hoop floated this very idea this morning. I've had some good predictions in my day (have I mentioned that I predicted Roy would make this year's All-Star team? Just making sure ...), but this is the Mount Everest of predictions. In fact, this almost goes beyond predictions. Did the Memphis and L.A. front office read Henry's post and think, "Wow, that's a good idea"? Just a fascinating turn of events.

As for the trade itself, I think it was fantastic for the Lakers. Not so much for Memphis.

Let me start with the "losers." In exchange for one of the 10 best post players in the league, Memphis gets back Kwame Brown for half a season, cap space, yet another young point guard, and two first round picks. Here's the problem with all of this. Cap space is never as good as it seems in this day and age. I know Gasol wasn't really working out under Ivaroni, but are they really going to get someone better with that money? They'll probably wind up pulling an Orlando Magic and signing a guy like Rashard Lewis for $120 million. I know Elton Brand and others are in this class, but I'm telling you, playing the free agency card rarely works out well. Just go back to the time Chicago had to splurge on Ron Mercer if you don't believe me.

If Memphis doesn't parlay Brown's contract into a stud like Brand, this deal doesn't have much else to it. Yes, there are two future first round picks, but what are those going to be worth? The Lakers are loaded now and won't be picking earlier than 20th anytime soon. Drafting in the 20's is so unpredictable that it might as well be the second round, just with more salary obligations. (Heck, I'd rather have the second round pick.) And Crittenton? The only way he adds value is if another trade is on the way. Maybe they like a bigger guy to back up Conley and think they can get something good for Kyle Lowry (they would probably be right about that), but everything I hear is that Memphis loves Lowry and won't trade him. (I don't really blame them, because as one reader pointed out last summer, Conley and Lowry gives them a "Mike Lowry" Bad Boys backcourt.) Do they think Crittenton is going to be a major chip in a trade?

I believe the Grizzlies would have been better off sucking up their pride and using the next few weeks to boost Gasol's trade value. That means no plays for Rudy Gay, 20 FGA's every night for Gasol, and other ways to get his stats and profile up. That said, maybe this is the best they could do. Doesn't mean they aren't the loser of the deal.

As for the Lakers, this is a monster trade. For starters, it drives the final nail into the "Kobe wants out" coffin. Between the evolution of Farmar and Bynum, the acquisition of Fisher, and now this, Kobe couldn't possibly have any complaints. In fact, the only issue he could really take with management at this point would be fuming over that old Caron Butler trade ... except that even that horrible deal has now netted Gasol! Mitch Kupchak is pulling off one of the great comeback stories in front office history.

In addition to keeping Bryant happy, the deal also gives the Lakers a legit shot at winning a title. As in now. Gasol should be able to keep the team afloat while Bynum is out, which is hugely important. The West is so loaded this year that the line separating "title contender" from "10th" is razor thin. Even without Gasol, the Lakers are a team that no one wants to see in the playoffs. But with Bynum out for at least another month, would they even get there? They just lost the first contest of a nine-game road trip and were they to hit the skids for a couple of weeks, they'd find themselves looking up at the rest of the conference. You can't win the playoffs unless you actually make the playoffs. Bringing in Gasol virtually assures that.

Additionally, Gasol makes them a better playoff team. He's proven to perform best when the chips are down (for the Spanish national team and even when his overmatched Grizzlies team made the playoffs) and now gives the Lakers a whopping three players who routinely command double teams (joining Kobe and Bynum). How are teams going to match up with this Lakers squad? Furthermore, it gives L.A. all kinds of flexibility. They can go huge with Bynum, Gasol, and Odom on the frontline. They can pull the plug on the Odom Era (he looks like a shell of himself) and bring in someone more suited to play small forward next to the two bigs. They can explore moving him for a point guard. They can put a fantastic transition team on the floor when Bynum is out or resting, by loading up with Gasol, Odom, Ariza, Bryant, and Farmar. Short of the Suns or Warriors (sans Webber), who can keep up with that lineup?

I know that I've always been particularly high on Gasol (much like Devin Harris), but even the people who think he is overrated (or soft or any of the other criticisms that have surfaced over the years) have to admit that this is a huge acquisition for the Lakers.

This year, in the Western Conference, there appears to be no such thing as a favorite. But if there was, the Lakers might now be the team wearing that crown.

What a trade.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Seriously...what a trade indeed.

I hate Memphis so much right now for doing this.