By Craig Kwasniewski
Hey, the Lakers aren't drafting until the #60 pick, so I have a ton of time to myself.... almost too much time. So while we're waiting for the most uneventful Lakers pick since, well since last season (Darius Morris anyone), here are a few Lakers thoughts mulling about my head:
1 - The Pau Gasol Situation: It's the pink elephant in the room. Do the Lakers trade Gasol and start their salary slashing drive this summer or keep him for next summer? The nasty, brutal cap kicks in during the 2013-14 season, giving the Lakers one full season to spend freely before the clock strikes midnight and the party's all over. Keeping with that metaphor, do they keep drinking and hope liquid courage lands the hot chick (title contention in 2013) but risk rejection and a potential DUI or do they leave the party early and hope to hook up another day?
I say, keep Gasol for one full season and see what happens with just a few minor tweaks to the roster. Depending on who you ask, Kobe is nearing the end or just past the end of his prime. He's got maybe 2 or 3 legit All-Star seasons left in his body so why not try to go big one last time?
Gasol is too skilled of a player to sell off for draft picks with flotsam and jetsam and though the Josh Smith rumor is intriguing (VERY intriguing) it doesn't match his basketball IQ. Need I remind you, Gasol was the second best player during their three straight Finals appearances. Unless the Lakers can grab All-Star talent in return, there's no need to ship the sensitive Spaniard just because of a bad pass in a playoff game.
2 - One last thing on Gasol: Lakers fans like their bigs to be physical brute forces. It drives them batty when Gasol finger rolls a layup instead of knocking bodies around and breaking bones. For that reason alone he's never considered "untouchable." Mix in the 2008 Finals, his 2011 flameout (obviously burnt out from three straight Finals runs) and THAT PASS against OKC and Lakers fans want him gone. They don't care what they get in return. They don't care what you do with it, bring it where you got it before. Get it out of here... I don't care!!!
Or something like that.
3 - The Artest/Metta Situation: The Lakers are also trying to rid themselves of Metta World Peace's contact. If you asked me back in March I'd be completely on board. Then we learned he had nerve damage that wrecked half of last season and once he recovered he was playing his best basketball since Game 7.
Suddenly, outside of Kobe, Metta's the Lakers only true gamer on the team. His shutdown defense of Gallinari and Andre Miller in Game 7 keyed the Lakers win. And as the OKC series showed, this team lacks playoff toughness (Steve Blake might be the only other guy). If the Lakers are going ALL IN for 2012-13, then Artest needs to be a part of the team.
4 - Bynum Trade Runors: Let's get this one out of the way FAST! Andrew Bynum is not getting traded! He's almost the only evidence that Jim Buss exists. The Lakers hired a coaching staff to feature him, are looking to trade Gasol for players to fit better around him and are working their salary structure to keep him long term. The CP3 trade that didn't happen was the Lakers trying to build their own Magic-Kareem pair for the future. He is their future and he's not ever getting traded. Done and done... let's move on.
5 - The ONE Gasol Trade Rumor I Like... maybe: Outside of the dream scenario where the Lakers land D-Will and Dwight Howard for Bynum, Gasol and stuff, the legit Gasol trade rumor that I kind of like is the Josh Smith one. Fine, throw all the "enjoy 20-foot jumpers!!!" at me but he's actually a decent fit for the Lakers. Mike Brown needs a stretch 4 (turns out, turning Gasol into a softer Brad Miller isn't really a good thing) to run his unimaginative offense and Smith fits that role perfectly. Plus the Lakers sorely need his athleticism and at 26 he's the right age to build a solid core with Bynum. The downside is his hoops IQ is nowhere near Gasol and moving his game from athletic attacker to jump shooter reeks of VInce Carter. Also the Lakers will have to take salary to make the deal work (Marvin Williams?!?!?)... but of all the legit rumors, this one doesn't immediately knock the Lakers out of title contention.