In the latest update to the story that just won’t go away, Andrea Bargnani for Pau Gasol is no longer just a hypothetical trade proposal made by media members and fans, but rather an actual possibility according to ESPN and CBS Sports.
On Wednesday evening, Ken Berger of CBS Sports wrote that “rival executives believe the most likely landing spot for Gasol is Toronto, which could offer Andrea Bargnani in return and bolster the Lakers’ point-guard deficiency with Jose Calderon.”
The report was taken seriously enough that hours later, the landing page of Hoops Hype looked like this:
Berger also writes that “sources say Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has shown no willingness to part with Bargnani,” but I almost can’t believe that it’s humanly possible to still believe in Bargnani in Toronto anymore. Plus, later Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, ESPN.com ran a story about the Lakers recently rejecting Pau Gasol trade inquiries from at least two teams, which the article later reveals were the Raptors and Timberwolves.
Citing unnamed sources, the ESPN report states that Toronto and Minnesota “have both recently tried to engage the Lakers in trade discussions for Gasol,” but that Mitch Kupchak doesn’t want to trade Pau until he can see what the Lakers look like when healthy, and specifically when the offence is run by a healthy Steve Nash. The report also goes on to say that in addition to Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza “are among the players, sources say, that the Raptors have discussed making available to the Lakers in a deal for Gasol.”
Both reports point out the fact that Bargnani has a reputation as being soft or that he has deficiencies on defence and rebounding the ball, but they also point out the fact that Bargnani being a stretch power forward would make him an ideal frontcourt mate for Dwight Howard and an overall ideal candidate for Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system. I agree.
Under D’Antoni, in an offence run by Nash and alongside Kobe Bryant, but more importantly beside the one player in the world who can mask his deficiencies (Howard), Bargnani would be a perfect fit for the Lakers, and he could probably carve out a role as an All Star big man because of those factors. But that’s not saying much, and we know for damn sure that he’s not going to be that guy – at least not for more than 13 games at a time – in Toronto, so watching him potentially flourish in L.A. won’t make me think that the Raptors gave up on him too soon or anything silly like that.
As for Gasol, some say that trading Bargnani for a perceived wash up veteran with knee tendinitis is pointless, but I don’t actually see Pau as washed up, and to be honest, with how painfully obvious it is that Bargnani doesn’t belong with this Raptors team, I’d probably be okay trading him for just about anything right now. Okay, not really, but you get the point. No team is going to give up a young building block type player for a few years of Bargnani, so unless the Raptors decide to experiment with Andrea as a sixth man, he probably just has to go…anywhere.
If you can find a way to get a player of Gasol’s quality and stature in that trade without having to give up one of the younger core pieces, I really don’t see how anyone can be opposed to it. While Pau isn’t in the prime of his career by any stretch, he’s still a much, much better big man and overall basketball player than Bargnani is right now.
On bad knees at 32-years-old, Gasol’s rebounding rate is nearly double that of the healthy 27-year-old Bargnani’s. Gasol’s assist percentage is more than double that of Bargnani’s. Pau’s block percentage is higher, he has a better offensive rating and defensive rating. Looking at the advanced metrics and even many of the basic stats, it’s clear to see that Gasol is still better than Bargnani in virtually every facet of the game.
Gasol started this season with an opening night performance of 23 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Has Bargnani ever put together such a complete game in the NBA?
Sure, Bargnani can shoot threes and can space the floor in ways Gasol never can, but the last time I checked, it’s not exactly necessary to have a floor spacing big man, especially if you’re going to end up with a disadvantage in basic basketball fundamentals like rebounding and defence.
Another knock against Gasol is his contract, but that’s being overblown. The Raptors’ cap situation wouldn’t change much this season if they moved Bargnani and Calderon to get Gasol, and while Gasol is still owed over $19 million next season, his deal will be an expiring one in 2013-14 whereas Bargnani still has an $11.5 million option for 2014-15. So Toronto’s cap flexibility would take a hit next year, but it would also clear up quicker than it would with Andrea on the books.
If in some alternate universe the Raptors can trade Bargnani for a young building block, or if like in NBA 2K13 the Raptors could partner Bargnani with Howard in Toronto, then fine. Heck, if you can turn him into some kind of super-sub here, I’m okay with that, too. But it’s more apparent than ever that Bargnani probably has to go, and if he can be parlayed into Pau Gasol, Raptors fans should be more than content despite Pau’s age and lucrative salary.
It sounds like we’ll have to wait a little while longer before the Lakers get serious about trading Pau, but considering that it started off as just a pipe-dream, the fact that this trade now sounds like an actual possibility is something.