Should the Lakers part ways with Pau Gasol?

With the “disappointing” — and by disappointing, I mean completely predictable — end to the Lakers season, there’s a question: Do the Lakers need to break up Pau and Kobe? Such a thought brings up memories of the original Shaq and Kobe split. While this blog may have a slightly negative Kobe tone, we did side with Kobe in 2004. If you dust off your copy of Wages of Wins, you can reminded of the following facts:

  • Kobe and Shaq were both very good players
  • Their last season together Kobe was close to overtaking Shaq’s production
  • Much of this had to do with the fact the Shaq had gotten old
  • Additionally Shaq had a market value of near $20 million a season

Now, here’s the interesting part about Shaq’s last season on the Lakers, he was 31 years old! This is now true of Pau Gasol! Let’s take a quick examination of Pau’s career, using the numbers from the NBA Geek:

Season Team Games Minutes WP48 Wins Produced
2001-2002 Memphis 82 3007 0.214 13.4
2002-2003 Memphis 82 2948 0.122 7.5
2003-2004 Memphis 78 2458 0.129 6.6
2004-2005 Memphis 56 1790 0.185 6.9
2005-2006 Memphis 80 3135 0.184 12.0
2006-2007 Memphis 59 2133 0.167 7.4
2007-2008 Memphis-L.A. Lakers 66 2351 0.159 7.8
2008-2009 L.A. Lakers 81 2999 0.234 14.6
2009-2010 L.A. Lakers 65 2403 0.264 13.2
2010-2011 L.A. Lakers 82 3041 0.265 16.8
2011-2012 L.A. Lakers 65 2430 0.142 7.2

Pau put up some of his best seasons when the Lakers made their trips to the finals. He in fact hit his top season two seasons ago. It’s possible playing with Kobe helped this. Another theory from Stumbling on Wins is that playing under the Zen-Master Phil Jackson was a key component. That said, Pau will be 32 next season, the age when most players start to fall apart. He has two seasons left on his contract worth almost $40 million. Worse still, he showed the starting signs of decline this season.

Now simply dumping Pau’s contract is not advisable. He’s still a good big and there is value there. However, if a good trade comes along for him, they should definitely take it. The second part of this though is if this is Pau vs. Kobe. It’s not. Kobe’s contract is even worse and every single thing that applies to Pau is even worse for Kobe. Kobe may still have trade value but his contract means the Lakers would need to take nearly $30 million in contracts back. It is unlikely any team with $30 million in good contracts wants to spend them on Kobe. The suggestion here is one Patrick Minton has had for a while: Amnesty Kobe! Some team will pick up some of the salary, and it will free up tons of cap space and also save some on the cap hit the Lakers currently incur.

Here is my advice for the Lakers

  • Trade Pau if there is a decent option
  • Amnesty Kobe
  • Pick up Bynum’s option
  • Don’t make any other dumb signings like Steve Blake, Metta World Peace or Derek Fisher

This could leave the Lakers in a decent spot going forward. Of course, doing this would mean admitting that when it comes to Pau vs. Kobe the real answer is neither!


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