By Zach Lowe on November 21, 2012
"It'd be remiss to overlook the puzzling determination among a segment of Laker fans to deal one of the league's great all-around players. That's not to say there are no grounds for trading Gasol. As I've written before, he's a center the Lakers have had to shoehorn into a power forward role over the last two seasons, a makeshift setup that (along with shaky perimeter shooting at other positions) cramps the Lakers' spacing; there's a reason the Lakers almost always closed games with Lamar Odom and just one of the Gasol/Bynum duo, back when Odom was actually an NBA player. With three $1 players already onboard, it might make sense to deal Gasol for two 65-cent players who bring shooting and fit Mike D'Antoni's offense. (Let's ignore that one of those $1 players is recovering from back surgery, and another is almost 39 and dealing with a broken leg.)
"But the "trade Gasol" fervor has masked — in some corners of Laker Land — what a brilliant player Gasol is. And though Kobe Bryant has backed Gasol publicly, his habit of chastising Gasol for alleged passivity, including after Bryant shot the Lakers out of Game 4 against the Thunder last season, has emboldened that fervor.
"The Lakers' offense has remained pretty efficient overall because Gasol is the rare 7-footer with the versatility to make the awkward setup work. He can hit 18-footers consistently, though he needs space and time to load up. He may be the world's best passing big, though his brother is giving him a run in Memphis. He is unselfish and team-oriented despite a prodigious individual skill set. And though he's an uneven defender, at times badly overextended as a power forward, he works hard at it and has the right instincts.
"Want to deal this guy? Fine. Understand that it might not work out as well as you'd hope. Gasol is 32, due $19 million this year and $19.3 million next season; the other 29 teams appreciate Gasol, but not many are stoked about taking on that contract, even though it will become an expiring deal before you know it. The Lakers' ceiling may be higher without him, given the right package, but take a minute to appreciate Gasol's game while you can."