David Kahn has a special affection for Pau Gasol, doesn’t he? The Timberwolves executive has been linked to the skilled Lakers’ big man for over a year now. The reason for Kahn’s fixation beyond Gasol’s basketball expertise and high i.q. is puzzling, though. Gasol’s proved that he’s deteriorating right before the NBA’s eyes and his game is losing that touch, as Gasol’s confidence continues to drown.
The Lakers have been openly — and secretively — shopping Gasol over the past year, which coincides with Kahn’s timeline perfectly. They understand his better days are behind him and need to start putting a foot through the aging franchise’s future door. Ideally, the Lakers would be able to receive back what Gasol should’ve given them this season. But it’s not 2010 and Gasol’s knee tendenitis is not a welcoming sign that he’ll turn it around any time soon, if ever. And in a free trade market, assets lose value quickly, especially big men with little-to-no mental spark or determined attitude.
That’s what makes the latest rebuff at a Wolves’ trade offer so intriguing. Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne reported today that the Lakers again denied a trade from Kahn’s office, reportedly centered around Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams with potentially more pieces involved beyond that.
Talk about an impressive little package. Pekovic has quickly established himself as a top-10 center in the league, while Williams, the former second overall pick in 2011, has yet to prove his worth stuck behind superstar Kevin Love and madman Dante Cunningham in the rotation.
But it’s just not enough for the Lakers to pull the trigger.
But let’s pretend. Let’s say the Lakers did go all in on a deal with the Wolves on a package revolving around Gasol, Williams and Pekovic. What would that mean for the Lakers and the Wolves?
The Lakers, it certainly means getting younger. Williams, contrary to Minnesota fans, still has hope. He’s shown this season that he can connect from deep. He’s still got moves in isolation. It all comes down to his finishing ability and overall consistency. He hasn’t been able to show that due to the eight inch thick cement walls that encloses Rick Adelman’s doghouse. As for Pekovic, well, he’s a scapegoat in case Dwight Howard bails after this season. Not likely, but Pek may be a cheaper resign option, and in the mean time, help form the strongest center tandem in the league. By far.
For the Wolves, or Kahn, I should say, he welcomes the Spaniard big man with open arms. He brings a specific skillset and veteran leadership to a squad lacking both from a big man perspective that Kevin Love just doesn’t. Love’s game is more integrated than Gasol’s but his niche skill in the post and passing ability creates serious problems for defenses when defending the paint and the baseline. Love just doesn’t have the post presence and ability to score from that spot, let alone find open players with his back to the basket. Not to mention the Spanish connection he and Ricky Rubio have already and can further root from the means of playing together in Minnesota.
But with Adelman’s offense and the current makeup of the team, Gasol’s slower pace doesn’t fit the team at all. The Wolves like to run, and once Rubio returns, the pace will pick up exceptionally more. Thinking that Gasol can run with the youthful Pack at this point in his career would be blasphemous.
This is all assuming that Gasol’s knees heal up and he can return to just 80% of the form he once used to be, which is a huge if. Not to mention the heavy contractual load that Gasol brings to an already messed up cap situation that has serious financial obligations through the next three years.
All factors considered, Gasol’s fit within the current team just isn’t right. The deal that would be in place to get him here would have serious implications on the team’s chemistry down the stretch in an integral season, where the Wolves are looking to make their first legit playoff push in a long, long time. Gasol just has too much baggage — attitude, health and contract combined — to really make a positive impact on the Wolves for the rest of the season. It’s definitely a gamble, and Kahn’s a gambling man. We just have to hope he isn’t given the real opportunity to go through with rolling the dice in the first place.