Breakdown of the Gasol trade, the Lakers’ next move and Kidd trade ideas
The NBA world is still reeling from the amazing deal the Lakers swung to get Pau Gasol. They only gave up Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Pau’s brother, Marc, and two first-round picks (in 2008 and 2010).
Brown’s expiring salary of $9.1 million was the main reason he was included in the deal, so don’t expect him to be wearing a Grizzlies uniform for long. Crittenton is the potential prize in this trade for the Grizzlies, other than the aforementioned cap space. He had a tough time finding minutes behind Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar, and he didn’t do much with the minutes he got. Phil Jackson did say that he’s going to be a player, but was that just a ruse to boost his trade value?
Regardless, the two first-round picks do sound nice, but with the Lakers’ new look, they’re a virtual lock to be picking in the late 20s for the next five years. Moreover, the Lakers also received the Grizzlies’ second-round pick in 2010, so unless Memphis beats the odds and gets its act together quickly, that pick will be at the very beginning of the second round. In essence, the two 2010 picks in question -- the Lakers’ first rounder and the Grizzlies’ second -- may very well be only a few spots apart. This is something that didn’t get a lot of coverage when news of the trade broke.
So, getting down to brass tacks, the Lakers basically acquired Pau Gasol for Javaris Crittenton and a late first-round pick in 2008.
I’m not going out on a limb by saying that this is an absolute steal for the Lakers. That view is shared by most of the pundits around the league, and those who are saying that the trade also worked out for Memphis are just kidding themselves. This is a case of Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley, who has been trying to sell the team for years, telling his GM (Chris Wallace) to cut salary as soon as possible, and that’s exactly what this was -- a salary dump. By trading away Gasol, they are rid of the nearly $50 million they owe him over the next three years. The only way this trade evens out is if Crittenton (or one of the players they draft with the Lakers’ picks) turns out to be an All-Star.
But back to Gasol. Considering his ability, he is paid fairly and I’d even go so far as to say that his contract is actually a pretty good deal. His career average of 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds is impressive especially considering that he’s been able to post those numbers consistently in the West, which has most of the best big men in the league. Since he was playing for a perennial loser in a small market, he has flown way under the radar. He’s a dangerous low post scorer, but he’s even better at squaring up to the rim from the wing or the elbow and attacking the defense on the dribble. He has proven that he doesn’t have the ability to carry a franchise, but he should produce big numbers as Kobe’s sidekick in the triangle offense. Moreover, he’s 27 and the Lakers have him locked up for the next three years.
From another angle, with this deal, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was able to exorcise his biggest demon -- the ill-advised trade for Kwame Brown. A few years back, Kupchak rolled the dice on Kwame by trading away future All-Star Caron Butler, and the move obviously backfired. By turning Kwame’s expiring contract into Gasol, Kupchak is able to fix his worst move as GM for the Lakers.
The trade has non-Laker fans around the league wondering why their team wasn’t able to offer up something better for Gasol. It’s a valid question, and those GMs who are already on the proverbial hot seat are probably finding their seats just got a good bit warmer.
THE LAKERS’ NEXT MOVE
L.A. might be done wheeling and dealing, but they shouldn’t be. Once Andrew Bynum comes back, the team is going to have a dangerous lineup, only there’s a player that doesn’t really fit in: Lamar Odom. Phil Jackson could bring him off the bench to anchor the scoring and rebounding for the second unit, but his poor shooting and lack of aggressive play is a bad fit alongside Kobe, Gasol and Bynum. The team needs a solid shooter that is able to make teams pay for doubling any of its stars.
On paper, Vladimir Radmanovic seems to be that guy, and while his Points Per Shot (0.996) ranks in the top fifth of all NBA players, his defense just isn’t up to snuff. The two other small forwards on the roster -- Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza -- aren’t consistent shooters. The other wing, Sasha Vujacic, is a terrific shooter but he can’t guard small forwards on the other end of the court. That forces Kobe into covering bigger and stronger players, and the Lakers won’t want to wear down the franchise.
So who’s out there that the Lakers could acquire? Let’s assume the team wants to use Odom to acquire a shooter who can spread the court. We’re looking for a small forward who shoots a good percentage from long range, has a solid PPS and is at least a capable defender.
- Mike Miller would be ideal, but I think that well has run dry. Besides, the Grizzlies wouldn’t be interested in taking on the $14.5 million that the Lakers owe Odom for next season.
- Shane Battier might fit the bill. He shoots almost 39% from long range and is a good passer and defender. The problem is that the Rockets want to surround Yao Ming with guys like Battier, so it would be difficult to pry him away.
- Mike Dunleavy is thriving in Indiana, averaging 17.8 points on 48.3% shooting (40.3% from long range). He is locked in for another three years at the tune of almost $30 million, so the Lakers may balk at taking on so much salary. Still, he’d be a nice fit, and the Pacers might bite since Odom’s contract is two years shorter.
- Wally Szczerbiak is probably the most available of anyone on this list, but it’s unlikely that the Sonics would want to acquire someone like Odom who could potentially stunt the growth of Kevin Durant. For this to happen, a third team would probably need to get involved.
- Hedo Turkoglu would be great, but he’s playing All-Star caliber ball and the Magic aren’t going to give up his shooting. They need him to space the court for Dwight Howard.
- Andres Nocioni should be starting in this league but he’s stuck behind Luol Deng in Chicago. Odom’s game is pretty similar to Deng’s (though Deng is the better shooter), so unless the Bulls would be willing to play Odom at power forward, there’s no point in making the trade.
- There has been a lot of talk about the Lakers possibly acquiring Ron Artest, though his three-point accuracy (34.7%) leaves a bit to be desired. However, he is a capable shooter and brings a lot to the table defensively. Odom could continue to play some power forward in Sacramento and might not be a bad fit with the Kings’ young wing players.
WHERE WILL KIDD LAND?
The Mavs, Nuggets, Cavs and Lakers have all been mentioned as possible destinations for Jason Kidd. With the trade value for disgruntled stars already at an all-time low, it looks as if the Gasol trade has pushed it even lower.
I think Kidd could make the biggest impact in Denver, where George Karl’s up-tempo attack would really benefit from a pass-first point guard. Kidd’s arrival would allow Allen Iverson to play his natural position of shooting guard, and Kidd could cover the opponent’s bigger guard to compensate for Iverson’s lack of size. The problem with Denver is that they really don’t have the pieces that the Nets would covet – expiring contracts and young prospects. Eduardo Najera has the only expiring contract of much value ($5.0 million), and could be used to make the salaries work. The Nets aren’t going to take on Kenyon Martin’s bloated contract, but if they’re interested in the talented yet injury-prone Nene, a deal could be struck. How about Nene, Najera and Chucky Atkins for Kidd? The trade would leave the Nuggets thin on the front line, but it might be worth it to land Kidd.
Ideally, the Cavs may want to move the disappointing Larry Hughes for Kidd, but I don’t think the Nets want the two years and $26.5 million remaining on his contract. Reportedly, they have inquired about Daniel Gibson and Drew Gooden, and this deal (which includes Sasha Pavlovic and Eric Snow) would do the trick. If the Nets want to pass on Pavlovic for more immediate cap relief, they could swap him out for Ira Newble, whose contract expires this season.
It’s going to be difficult for the Mavs to work out a deal for Kidd without giving up one of its four core pieces. Dirk and Josh Howard are untouchable, but Devin Harris and Jason Terry aren’t, though given the Gasol trade, giving up Harris or Terry seems like a lot for a 35-year-old point guard. Still, if the Mavs want Kidd, they could offer up Terry, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager and Devean George. Terry is a good player at a reasonable price, Hassell is a good defender, Ager is a prospect and George has an expiring contract.
Lastly, we’ve come to the good ol’ Lakers. Now that they’ve acquired Gasol, they may not want to take on Kidd and his giant contract, but if they’re still interested, he can be had. They’d have to offer up Odom and at least one other player -- Chris Mihm, Trevor Ariza, Vladimir Radmanovic -- to make the numbers work. Odom is probably the best player that the Nets can expect to get in return for Kidd, and even that’s a stretch. Remember, if any of these deals seem lopsided one way or another, teams can throw in a draft pick or two to balance the scales a bit.
Here are a few other teams that could benefit from Kidd’s services:
- Atlanta could offer Josh Childress, Zaza Pachulia, Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson and Lorenzen Wright. Atlanta probably won’t have the cash to re-sign Childress (right), and he’d be a good, versatile player for the Nets to acquire. The contracts of Lue, Wright and Johnson expire this season (to the tune of $9.6 million) and Pachulia’s expires in 2009. That would give the Hawks a starting lineup of Kidd, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford. That’s not bad.
- The Clippers could send Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell, Aaron Williams and Dan Dickau to the Nets for Kidd. Maggette would be the prize, but his game is pretty similar to Richard Jefferson’s so I’m not sure the two would mesh well. The contracts of Cassell and Williams would give the Nets immediate cap relief, but they would need to re-sign Maggette.
- The Heat could offer Jason Williams, Ricky Davis and Dorrell Wright. This wouldn’t be much different from the Gasol deal. The contracts of Williams and Davis would give the Nets $15.7 million in immediate cap relief, while Wright is a nice prospect along the same lines as Crittenton. The Heat could make this move in the hopes that Kidd’s arrival would be enough incentive for Shaq to pull it together for one more run at a title.
- The Kings could send Mike Bibby and Kenny Thomas to the Nets for Kidd. Bibby is a solid player that would give the Nets a viable starter at the point, though they may balk at taking on Thomas’ contract, which runs another two years at the tune of $16.5 million. Alternatively, Shareef Abdur-Rahim could be substituted for Thomas.
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