With the Cavs refusing to send Dion Waiters and a possible 1st-round pick, the Laker trade talks have stalled.
Once originally thought of as a trade to save money, the Lakers are looking for a sweetened pot with additional players to match contracts and a 1st round pick. Cleveland may lack confidence in Pau Gasol’s chances to stay on the team. However, he has learned under Coach Mike Brown, and brings veteran leadership and championship IQ to Cleveland’s young bigmen.
On the Cavs roster, Earl Clark, Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett still have a ways to learn to establish their identities as great NBA players. What Pau brings to Cleveland is the ability to bring out their skill level. Gasol is excellent at setting up teammates, especially power forwards and centers with range. Earl Clark did especially well for the Lakers during the second half of last season. Zeller hasn’t come into his own just yet. Bennett still needs some seasoning in terms of strength, conditioning, and patience in the paint. The Cavs bigmen all have the physical tools and skill level to excel.
What is underrated is Pau’s ability to open things up from the perimeter. Since he is such a skilled high-post player, he’s able to attack defenses with ball-penetration from 17′ and in. This is enough to draw double teams and free up the perimeter for Jarrett Jack and Kyrie Irving from range. Both guards are aggressive attacking with the basketball, and Gasol has no issues being the primary or secondary facilitator on offense.
The question to Cleveland, outside of financial matters is, is this most beneficial for the team? Is giving up Waiters and a 1st rounder worth the experience? With Kyrie Irving out with a bone bruise and Jarrett Jack missing the last game with back spasms, Gasol can be a playmaker from the frontline, a dimension that is sorely lacking with the Cavs. Waiters hasn’t seemed like a long-term plan for the Cavs and blending his game with Kyrie’s hasn’t been flawless. Usually a team stacked with athletic bigmen and an elite point guard needs perimeter shooting and great defense from the shooting guard spot. From afar, the team looks like it’s built similarly to the late 80s Pistons; loaded with active bigmen who can finish and an elite point guard. Karasev and Carrick Felix can fill in the 3-point shooting and defense necessary between the shooting guard and small forward spots. Waiters is just in the way. While he’s scoring over 15 points per game, he’s more of a volume shooter, shooting at a 42% rate and averaging a less than 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Coming from Laker perspective, it makes sense for Cleveland as well. It’s understandable to make the trade based on financial decisions, but from a basketball standpoint, this trade helps move the team forward. Getting any of the young bigmen to fulfill their potential and solidify their names as starters or borderline All-Stars can make the Cavs a playoff contender long-term.
The compromise would be to send Waiters or Anthony Bennett to the Lakers and keep the draft pick. It’s understandable for the Laker team to want both, but each player helps match salary and gives the Laker some youth on the roster to work with as well. This would also be Cleveland’s best opportunity to get rid of their #1 pick altogether if they feel insecure about his development. Otherwise, they would be throwing away his money without the flexibility of a fresh start.
A fresh start is what both teams are looking for anyway. Pau is a Laker great, a Spanish hero, and future Hall-of-Famer, but no name is bigger than the team, and both teams are just trying to compete for championships as quickly as possible.