Friday, February 01, 2008

Memphis Saves the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have suddenly transformed from “team in trouble” to one of the favorites to win the NBA title this season with the acquisition of PF/C Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Two weeks ago, the Lakers lost their promising young center – Andrew Bynum, to a knee injury that will sideline him for six to eight weeks. The injury was terrible for the Lakers. They had no depth up front, they were heading into a rough stretch in their schedule, and the New Orleans Hornets, the Golden State Warriors, and the Utah Jazz were playing so good that the Lakers were just about to free-fall, possibly out of play-off contention. It appeared as though the rest of the West had them between a rock and a hard place, then the Grizzlies saved the Lakers season by trading Gasol for PF/C Kwame Brown (a former #1 pick turned bust), rookie PG Javaris Crittenton (Memphis already drafted PG Mike Conley, Jr. #3 this year), and accepting two future first round picks which now seem likely to be low first-rounders. In other words, the Lakers got the better of this deal, and the rest of the league is very upset with the Grizzlies.

There are reasons the Grizzlies did this. They wanted Brown’s expiring contract and they wanted to get first round picks in order to rebuild. But this trade was just stupid for them. They’re unlikely to lure a free-agent better than Gasol to their awful organization and those two picks (2008 and 2010) will not help much if the Lakers finish near the top of their division, which looks certain now. The NBA draft has just a few sure things and players picked in the 20’s rarely become stars and most don’t even make a roster. There had to be a better deal out there for the Grizzles than to give up their franchise player to another team in the West for future cap space that will be hard to use (star players never leave their team to sign with bottom feeders like the Grizzlies), and draft picks that won’t help for years, if ever.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are doing back-flips over their good fortune. They’ve wanted to add help, but were reluctant to offer Andrew Bynum. They just didn’t have any value to offer. Then the Grizzlies agreed to give a star without getting one back. Gasol, 27, is arguably one of the best twenty players in the world. He has played on a bad team in a small market his entire career and has suffered through injuries, but the former All-Star dominates as the leader of the Spanish national team during International tournaments. He’s 7’0, in the prime of his career, and will play center until Bynum (7'0) returns. Then, Gasol will move to power forward, Lamar Odom (6'10) will move to small forward, and the Lakers will have the tallest team in the league. Oh, and did I mention they will be absurdly tall and have Kobe Bryant, the best payer in the league?

This trade will be viewed as an incredible stroke of luck by all Lakers fans, and the rest of us will see this as a shockingly stupid gift offered by the Memphis Grizzlies to a team that was in trouble. This is why you never see fair trades in the NBA. Good teams know that if they hold out long enough the bad teams will eventually make a bad trade. That’s the case with this trade, and that’s why teams like the Lakers are never really bad and teams like the Grizzlies are never really good.


  1. This will be rough for my Warriors and other bubble playoff teams. Why didn't Mullin make this move??