Now that the dust is starting to settle over the Lakers’ coaching crisis with their hiring of Mike D’Antoni, it behooves D’Antoni and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to examine their roster and determine how their personnel fits within D’Antoni’s spread pick-and-roll system. One of the keys to an effective pick-and-roll offense is having a big man who can step out and make three-pointers. Pau Gasol isn’t really that type of player, and Antawn Jamison appears to be essentially washed up. This means that Gasol could very well be available in a trade if the Lakers are able to acquire that shooting big man and bolster their weak bench.
You probably know what’s coming after the jump, but prepare to be outraged or delighted anyway by my proposal for a Lakers-Raptors trade that could benefit both teams.
Why the Lakers agree to this trade: Bargnani would be an excellent fit in D’Antoni’s system with his passing ability and three-point shooting range. He’s not as good of a passer as Gasol and there’s obviously a downgrade in the rebounding and defense departments, but it’s long been established that Dwight Howard is the ideal big man for Bargnani to play next to because Howard will grab the bulk of the rebounds and Bargnani’s poor help defense will become much less of a concern. With the open looks Bargnani would get in this system and with those teammates, it wouldn’t shock me if he regained the shooting touch that enabled him to make over 40 percent of his treys in 2008-09.
As for Calderon, it seems like I’ve been trying to figure out a way to trade him to the Lakers for years, and it makes sense now more than ever. The Lakers’ bench is deplorable and Calderon would be an upgrade at backup point guard and a quality sixth man who could play off of Nash in small lineups with Kobe Bryant at small forward. Plus, Nash will need to have his minutes limited during the season so he’ll be fresh for the playoffs, so the Lakers would benefit from Calderon’s skill with running the pick-and-roll when Nash rests.
Why the Raptors agree to this trade: Well, that might depend on whether Bryan Colangelo is the Raptors’ GM or I am. I don’t know if Colangelo would be willing to part with Bargnani in this or any other package, but I’d be all over this like Honey Boo Boo on cake.
I’m not even going to pretend that I’m being entirely logical with this idea. I simply want Bargnani and Calderon off this team and I feel like this is the best package the Raptors could conceivably get in return. I recognize that Gasol is on the downside of his career, but at 32 years old and with one more season on his contract after this one, I still think he can provide a near-All-Star level of play on this team. Plus, I like the idea of him setting an example to Jonas Valanciunas of how to play solid defense without fouling all the time.
I recognize that switching Calderon with Duhon means a dropoff at the backup point guard position (offensively anyway — Duhon’s a much better defender), but this team isn’t sniffing the playoffs if Kyle Lowry isn’t healthy for most of the rest of the season, anyway. Right now, I’m staring at the possibility that the Oklahoma City Thunder could end up with a lottery pick in the single digits (from the pick they acquired from Houston via Toronto in the James Harden trade) with the way the Raptors is playing, and that fills me with fear and loathing. If this team is doomed to miss the post-season even after this trade, I want them to get as close as possible to a playoff spot so that draft pick is in the 12-14 range.
There are those of you who would prefer to the Raptors to go straight into “tank mode” so they can possibly grab one of those protected top three picks in the next draft, but that’s simply not realistic. This team is not going to finish in the bottom three in the standings — Dwane Casey and Lowry won’t allow it. I could see them finishing fifth or sixth from the bottom, though, and then we’ll all get to agonize over the 20-30 percent chance that the Raptors climb into the top three in the lottery so they can keep their pick. I’m not crazy about those odds.
Another thing I like about this trade is the $22 million in contracts that will expire in 2014 when Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent. Even after just four regular season games as a Raptor, most of you would probably agree with me that Lowry is looking like a near-max-contract player — and he might be worth a max contract if it wasn’t for his recurring health issues. I want to ensure that there isn’t a luxury tax situation that will prevent MLSE from giving that man his money.
Ultimately, this trade is about enacting a culture change on this team. The Bargnani-Calderon combo has haunted and hindered this franchise for over six seasons and I’ve had enough. I wish them no ill will and I’d be happy for them if they won a championship in L.A., but I’m ready to hand this team over to the Lowry-Valanciunas-DeRozan trio moving forward. And, oh yeah, Pau Gasol is a pretty damn good player too, for at least a couple more seasons.