The Lakers are at a crossroads. Bill Plaschke is hyperventilating. Ice Cube is pissed. Kobe turns 34 in August and is due $58 million over the next two seasons. Pau Gasol turns 32 in July. Andrew Bynum remains an enigma. The jump shooters are unreliable; so is the spotty bench.
For a franchise that won five titles from 1980-1988, then went through a post-Magic drought; only to rebound with Shaq, Kobe and Phil for three in a row (2000-2002) and then go through a post-Shaq funk until Gasol arrived to help Kobe win two more in 2009-2010, it feels like another dry patch is approaching.
Can LA do anything to prevent it?
You’ve got to keep Andrew Bynum. He only turns 25 in October. Yeah, he’s got maturity issues (and his career has been injury-riddled), but unless you’re going to get Dwight Howard in return – you’re not – how can you move a 7-footer who hasn’t reached his prime yet? The other option would be to try and get Deron Williams in a sign-and-trade, but then your only big man is Gasol, and considering he’s underperformed in back-to-back 2nd round playoff series, and the West has eight of the Top 11 (LA included) rebounding teams in the NBA, that’s a risky proposition.
The more sensible move is to trade Pau Gasol, which is what the Lakers attempted in the preseason, before David Stern stepped in. The Lakers had all but shipped Gasol to Houston, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do that again (for a package highlighted by oft-injured Kevin Martin and Luis Scola). That’s a popular choice – but I think the wrong one. I think the better move – as I stated earlier this season – is to trade Gasol to Philadelphia in exchange for some package involving Andre Iguodala.
1) Iguodala gives Kobe a huge help defending on the wing. Along with Metta World Peace, the Lakers would have two very strong defenders on the wing to defend the likes of Durant/Westbrook/Harden/Rudy Gay in the West.
2) Kobe no longer has to worry about defending a scorer on the wing, which his aging body will appreciate.
3) Iguodala is coming off his best 3-point shooting as a pro: 39 percent. Imagine how many more open looks he’ll get playing with Bynum and Kobe. A crunch-time lineup of Bynum, Jordan Hill, World Peace, Iguodala and Kobe would be defensively sound. Worried about the lack of a point guard? Iguodala averaged 5.5 assists per game, and yes, Steve Nash is still on the market (if he’s willing to take less money to play for the Lakers, that is).
4) The trade works for Philly, too. The offense would run through Gasol, and he’s surrounded by young talent in Holiday, Williams and Turner.
Another option: Send Gasol to Atlanta for Josh Smith. The Hawks could use a post presence alongside Horford, and dealing Smith clears the way for Marvin Williams, has seen his minutes dwindle in recent years (34 from 07-09; 26 this season). A Bynum-Smith tandem blocks plenty of shots.
Oh, and you fire Mike Brown and replace him with … Stan Van Gundy?