With Rumors Aplenty, Lakers Must Decide To Trade or Not To Trade

I consider myself quite the optimistic person. When it comes to sports teams, I’m optimistic to a fault. I predicted the Vikings (my favorite football team) to go 8-8 this year and contend for the Wild Card. I’m known for penciling my favorite college basketball team straight to the the national championship, then defending my choices along the way. When it comes to the Lakers, they are title contenders every year and, in my world, are the favorites.

I say all this because this year’s Lakers team isn’t good enough. They aren’t good enough to win a title, to make the Finals, to make the Conference Finals. Heck, they’re barely good enough to make the playoffs. Their ‘Big 3′ – Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol – rank as some of the best in the league. However, it’s the rest of the team where the problems lie.

Ron Artest is a liability offensively, more so than he helps on defense at this point. Derek Fisher seems physically and mentally drained, probably from the lockout. Jason Kapono is not a suitable back-up shooting guard. Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts are serviceable big men, but there are better.

On top of all that, of all those players I mentioned, only McRoberts is under 30. That means not only is this team struggling now, but they have no foreseeable plan for the future. Their “post-Kobe” plans rely entirely on a free agent to come to L.A., which might have worked in the past, but it’s not a plan that you can rely on too much, especially when you consider the two biggest free agents seem to have other cities in mind rather than the City of Angels.

The team did gain a first-round draft pick for this year’s draft, assuming that Dallas makes the playoffs. And while they lost Lamar Odom, it appears as though the trade might work out in favor of the Lakers in the end as Odom has struggled this year. With two first round picks in their pocket, much of the talk was how this could be used as ammunition for Dwight Howard or Deron Williams. However, with the lack of a future for the Lakers, I’ve thought the Lakers should hang on to the picks and possibly make a move to gain more.

Which brings me to one Pau Gasol. The one trade-able asset the Lakers have has been involved in trade talks since the end of last season. While he’s handled it like an absolute professional, it began affecting his game prior to the All-Star break. And when GM Mitch Kupchak offered very little reassurance that Pau wasn’t being shopped around, Gasol’s fate seemed written on the wall.

While he’s been a popular player, it’s time for the Lakers to move Pau for whatever they can get. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate everything he has done for this team. Without him, banners 16 and 17 wouldn’t be hanging and Lakers fans’ heads would not be filled with memories, especially of Game 7 in 2010 against the Celtics.

With that being said, Pau remains the most coveted and available player the Lakers have to offer. The Timberwolves, Rockets, Celtics, Bulls and Magic have all been linked to Gasol. And with the Lakers needing to make a move to either be contenders this year or in the future, what they do with Gasol is going to affect their future.

With the help of the NBA Trade Machine, I came up with some specific trades involving most of the interested teams that make the most sense for the Lakers and their counterpart.

Next Page: Possible Trade Scenarios

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