Expectations were not lived up to this season by the Los Angeles Lakers, not even close. A season filled with frustration, struggles and confusion was mixed in with a late on-set determination by the team to make the playoffs. However, their injury-plagued season was still met by an early exit from the playoffs.
As Mitch Kupchak alluded to during his exit interview, when a team loses, changes must happen. While we don’t know what those changes are just yet, the biggest question after Dwight re-signing or not has to do with Dwight’s partner in the frontcourt and his future in Los Angeles.
What are the Lakers going to do with two-time champion, Pau Gasol? We asked this question to some of our Lakers Nation writers. Let’s see what they had to say.
Daniel Buerge (@danielbuerge_LA): The Pau Gasol question is a difficult one for the Lakers. On one hand you have a legendary player, who will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a Laker, a crucial element in back-to-back championships for this team. On the other you have an aging star who is unable to produce on a high level, and the only piece of valuable trade bait on the roster. The nostalgic enthusiast in me doesn’t want to see Pau go, but realistically the team doesn’t have much of a choice.
Gasol represents the only way the Lakers can streamline their youth movement. There isn’t another enticing piece on the current roster that the Lakers have the ability to trade. Right now Gasol’s value is higher than it will ever be again, as his finish to the 2013 regular season was spectacular considering the circumstances. If the Lakers want to get younger next season, and not be forced to sit and wait for 2014 (which they’re going to have to do in many other ways), moving Gasol right now is the only option they have.
So, whether it’s for several pieces or simply to help clear cap and roster space, the toughest decision to swallow is going to end up being the right call for the Los Angeles front office. It’s finally time for the team to move on from Gasol and look towards the future.
Ross Gasmer (@Ross_Gasmer12): It’s been a pleasure to watch Pau Gasol sidekick Kobe Bryant the Lakers through two championship runs, but like all good things, they must come to an end.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Pau as a person and as a player, but for the 2013-14 Lakers I don’t forsee him on the roster come training camp.
The NBA is getting quicker, and of course the Lakers have showed no strategy in adjusting, but I do think it’s time to move on from Gasol. While there are arguments that they can afford him, with the new luxury tax rules I find it hard for Jim Buss to foot close to $80 million in just tax money.
Thus, I believe a deal for Gasol over the summer is inevitable, and I don’t think the Lakers will get equal value. The teams that won championships had a bench, and clearly last season the team had nothing of the sort.
So while they’ll pay 0.60 cents on the dollar for Gasol, hopefully they can get some depth on the perimeter and backcourt while Pau will probably shove it in their face as he reverts to his old self on whatever new team he’s traded to.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): This is a tough question to tackle because as a fan, Pau Gasol is the type of player you want on your team, in my opinion at least. Gasol was the missing piece that brought the Lakers back to champion status, twice, in more ways than just winning titles. Throughout all the trade rumors, negativity and mismanagement of his strengths and his overall game, Gasol has been the most professional player and represented the purple and gold the way it should be.
As far as his future, unfortunately I don’t think Pau will be back next season. While Kobe Bryant’s desire to keep Pau is strong, I think Pau’s improved performance during the last month of the season raised his trade value enough to garner interest from teams.
My opinion is based on aspects affecting the team such as the new CBA’s luxury tax system and the current salary cap. Pau is arguably the most skilled big man in the league. His basketball IQ, court awareness and his abilities are qualities that make a team better. However, for the Lakers, Gasol’s current trade value represents a chance for the team to get younger, more athletic and quicker.
With this said, if Dwight Howard decides to sign with a team other than the Lakers, Pau’s probability of staying with the Lakers skyrocket.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol has played his last game for the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol is set to make over $19.2 million in the final year of his contract, and the Lakers will be looking to get younger while capitalizing on the Spaniard’s current trade value.
Over the past few years, Gasol has been endlessly mentioned in trade rumors, with the Lakers dangling the veteran forward in an effort to bring in younger talent. Gasol was actually traded to the Houston Rockets in a three-way deal that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Lakers.
Gasol dodged a bullet with the blockbuster deal being vetoed by the league, but the trade speculation has only gotten worse with the trade rumors continuing to circulate every single season.
It’s only a matter of time before Gasol is either sent packing in a trade or as the result of the team deciding to amnesty the veteran forward. Metta World Peace has been mentioned as a likely candidate to be amnestied by the Lakers, but Gasol may turn out to be the player to get the axe.
At this point in time, anything can happen with this team coming off an incredibly disappointing season and the devastating loss of owner Dr. Jerry Buss. The storied franchise is in a difficult position dealing with a massive luxury tax, but if any team can pull through and adjust to new conditions, it’s the Lakers.
Unfortunately, Gasol will likely be a casualty of the Lakers adapting next season.