In the wake of the Los Angeles Lakers’ ouster from the playoffs, fans of all allegiances are calling for the Lakers to shake up their roster if they want to compete for a title any time soon. Naturally, the first name to be mentioned is Pau Gasol. As important as Gasol was for this organization in bringing two titles to LA, he has struggled mightily in the past two postseasons (13.1 points per game on 42.0% shooting and 7.8 boards in 2010-2011 and 12.5 points on 43.4% shooting this year). The Lakers are a team that desperately needs multiple consistent contributors to add depth to a roster than saw their bench score a meager five points in Game 5 against Oklahoma City. So if the Lakers choose to deal Gasol, where might he go and what might a potential deal look like? Here are six teams that would most likely entertain the thought of adding Pau for the 2012-2013 campaign, in order of least to most likely:
6. NEW YORK KNICKS
How it could happen: The question really becomes: how desperate are the Lakers for change? If down the road they are in fact reeling after being ousted in the second round, losing GM Mitch Kupchak, and looking like a team without a plan, the New York Knicks may sneak into this conversation. Why? Two words: Amare Stoudemire. Again, this is highly unlikely, but New York may, in Stoudemire, be able to offer a star who could use a change of scenery to resurrect his career as much as Gasol does. Rather than adding more depth to their bench, the Knicks could potentially send star power in return, something that few other teams can offer. The risks are obvious here, but gambling that Amare may bounce back to his 2010-2011 levels (25.3 points per game and 8.1 rebounds) after a rollercoaster 2011-2012 season might be worth it.
The trade: New York receives Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts
Los Angeles receives Amare Stoudemire
Trade analysis: Los Angeles is not going to pull the trigger on this deal without receiving additional depth, salary cap relief, or draft picks from the Knicks. By trading away McRoberts, who had fallen out of favor in LA, the Lakers not only shed a contract, but preserve their amnesty to use on another player. LA would surely have to do some retooling of their offense to incorporate Stoudemire’s skill set but, considering the way Gasol struggled to fit in, that might not be the worst consequence. New York surely has to be thinking about ditching the idea of making a contender out of the Carmelo Anthony-Stoudemire pairing. Gasol certainly knows he is a second option and would not have as difficult a time coexisting within the same offense as Stoudemire seemed to.
5. ORLANDO MAGIC
How it could happen: There is only one person who has the power to make this trade happen: Dwight Howard. If Howard says that he would be open to signing a long-term extension with the Lakers then a Howard for Gasol trade immediately makes sense for both teams. However, the Magic are likely to ask for more than the Lakers are willing to give up, so this trade is still a long shot.
The trade: Orlando receives Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, and Christian Eyenga and future draft considerations
Los Angeles receives Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu
Trade analysis: Unfortunately for the Lakers, they may have to give up Bynum and Gasol to get Howard, something that may not be worth it for the Lakers. Hypothetically, a trade that has Orlando receiving Gasol and Bynum while LA brings in Howard and Turkoglu seems to be just too perfect for Orlando to ever happen. Instead, LA is more likely to offer something more along the lines of the above package for Howard. If Orlando is comfortable giving up Howard for Gasol, cap relief, and future draft picks, then this trade makes sense for both sides. The Lakers would then be able to flip Bynum, who is proving to be a major headache, for players to complement the Bryant-Howard pairing.
4. BOSTON CELTICS
How it could happen: With Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett becoming free agents this summer, Boston may be looking to revamp its roster. Rondo has got to be untouchable, unless an elite PG is coming back, so that leaves Boston with little else to offer. But again, if Los Angeles desires another star to pair with Kobe Bryant before his window slams shut, Boston should be getting a call from Lakers management about the following trade.
The trade: Boston receives Pau Gasol
Los Angeles receives Paul Pierce
Trade analysis: If LA could ever convince the Celtics to give up the face of their franchise, this might be the trade that makes the most sense. Sure, it would be interesting to see how Pierce and Bryant would coexist on the same court, but along with Bynum, they would form quite possibly the third best “Big Three” in the league behind Miami and Oklahoma City. Boston could then attempt to re-sign Allen and/or Garnett, or pursue other free agents to build around Rondo, Gasol, Brandon Bass, and Avery Bradley.
3. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
How it could happen: Minnesota figures to be aggressive this summer in an attempt to make the jump from rebuilding team to playoff contender. The Timberwolves were slotted as the eighth seed out West before Ricky Rubio’s injury and in order to guarantee a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, they need to improve the roster. Gasol would be a natural fit in Rick Adelman’s offense as a big man who can pass, knock down open jumpers, and create his own offense.
The trade: Minnesota receives Pau Gasol
Los Angeles receives Luke Ridnour, Nikola Pekovic, and Michael Beasley
Trade analysis: In order for this trade to work, Minnesota would first have to re-sign Beasley at approximately $6.4 million. Granted, this gets tricky as Beasley is a restricted free agent and would have to agree to be signed-and-traded to the Lakers. But if the Beasley signs on, this trade could have the desired effect on both teams. Minnesota would get a player Rubio is extremely familiar with who A) would compliment Kevin Love’s game reasonably well and B) would thrive in Rick Adelman’s system. The Lakers, on the other hand, would obviously add some much needed depth. Ridnour could easily compete with Ramon Sessions for the starting spot and, at worst, would be a great back up, thus freeing the team to amnesty Steve Blake. Beasley would add some scoring off the bench that the Lakers desperately need. Pekovic is one of the rising stars in the league who, although he may not have a obviously clear role with the team, has a bright future as a solid contributor. With this trade, the Lakers would address several needs by adding point guard depth and consistency, another scorer, and a big with a high motor who can score and rebound.
2. CHICAGO BULLS
How it could happen: We wrote earlier about how, after the Derrick Rose injury, Chicago needed to seriously look at bringing in another star to compliment Rose. Considering Gasol had been on the team’s radar at the trade deadline, with Rose supposedly advocating for his team to acquire him, Gasol is a natural choice.
The trade: Chicago receives Pau Gasol
Los Angeles receives Carlos Boozer, CJ Watson, and a draft pick (No. 29 this year)
Trade analysis: This is very similar to the rumored trade discussions that happened around the deadline this year. Chicago would do this trade in a heartbeat for obvious reasons, mainly the fact that they could add Gasol without breaking up much of their core group of players. Los Angeles certainly would be a little more hesitant. However, Boozer is a guy who put up 15.0 and 17.5 points a game, respectively, in his two seasons with the Bulls despite the perception he has been a let-down. Watson, likewise, could add offensive fire power off the bench to a Lakers team that had very few contributions on the wing outside of Kobe.
1. HOUSTON ROCKETS
How it could happen: It is well documented that the Rockets have been zealous in their pursuit to add both a star and a big man. With Gasol, a player they have long coveted and almost landed before the start of this season, they could accomplish both tasks. They certainly have plenty of assets to offer the Lakers; it could simply come down to how much they are willing to give up in exchange to bring Gasol to town.
The trade: Houston receives Pau Gasol
Los Angeles receives Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, and two draft picks (No. 14 and 16 this year)
Trade analysis: Houston is even more attractive because they possess two picks in this year’s stacked draft. Not only would this trade provide the Lakers with a satisfactory replacement for Gasol to start at PF and give them an intriguing prospect in Lowry, but they would be able to further add to the roster with these two picks. There will be an abundance of wing players who will still be on the board that could come in an contribute right away. This trade gives the Lakers a great deal of depth while replacing Gasol with Scola, a player who is only one season removed from a campaign in which he averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. The Rockets would be ecstatic to add Gasol while holding onto key pieces such as Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Patrick Patterson, Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, and Chandler Parsons.
In light of Amare Stoudemire’s recent run in with a certain fire extinguisher in Miami, it got me thinking about the most idiotic self-inflicted injuries in the NBA. Most are self-inflicted out of the sheer stupidity by the offending party. Where does Stoudemire’s hand laceration rank in the list? Believe it or not, there have been more foolish injuries, albeit both by the same player. And no, Lionel Simmons doesn’t make the list for missing games during the 1990-1991 season because of a wrist injury caused by playing Game Boy. Simmons is saved by the fact that Derrick McKey missed time for the same reason a year later. You cannot fault these guys for being passionate about their Tetris. And there is nothing stupid about playing Game Boy. That being said, let’s see the real list:
5. Paul Pierce
The stage: the 2008 NBA Finals, Game 1, the biggest game of his life. Paul Pierce is bumped by teammate Kendrick Perkins and…Oh wait, we’re talking about real injuries? Excuse me, that was just so damn convincing.Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
5. Derrick Rose
Given his recent injury, maybe we shouldn’t be picking on the guy, but you haven’t heard just how ridiculous this injury really is. During his rookie season, Rose injured himself when he got a cut underneath his left elbow. Fortunately, Rose didn’t end up missing any game time, but it’s not the impact of this injury that is worth noting, it is the absurdity of it. Rose claimed that the night before the injury, he had been eating an apple in bed. The next morning as he went to grab a bottle of water, he forgot that the knife he used to cut the apple was still there. Thus, he sat down on the bed and sliced his arm. I guess it was an honest mistake, but lack of common sense is no excuse for being excluded from this list.
4. Monta Ellis
Ok, this one is pretty simple. When you sign a 6 year, $67 million contract, typically you owe it to your team to stay out of harm’s way. Instead, in August 2008, a little over a month after signing that big deal, Ellis revealed that he had torn a ligament in his left ankle. Initially, Ellis claimed that he had injured the ankle in a pick up basketball game in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. However, the Warriors looked further into the situation and discovered that Ellis had actually injured the ankle in a moped accident. The Warriors decided to suspend Ellis for 30 games without pay for the incident, assuming that he was too injured to play in those games anyway. That guess proved to be a tad on the conservative side as Ellis ended up playing only 25 games that season.
3. Tony Allen
Poor Tony Allen. Back in the days when he was known as “Trick or Treat Tony” for his maddeningly inconsistent play, he suffered one of the most unfortunate turns of fate on the court. But I can’t leave him off the list because I feel bad for him. No, his stupidity must be pointed out. On January 10, 2007, Allen was playing in the second half of a Celtics’ loss when, after hearing a whistle blow, Allen decided to drive into the lane and throw down an uncontested, dead ball dunk. Unfortunately for Allen, his knee didn’t exactly cooperate; upon landing he tore his ACL and MCL and ended up missing the rest of the season. You hate to see a guy go down with such a devastating injury, but in reality, Allen injured himself by showing off to the crowd. He went up for what he thought would be an emphatic and impressive dunk, but literally fell flat on his face, shredding his knee in the process.
2. Amare Stoudemire
Notice how all of these players “suffered” their injuries in the regular season? Too bad we can’t say the same for Stoudemire. He gets a lofty position in these rankings for the timing of everything. With his team struggling through a first-round playoff series with the Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations on a fire extinguisher. Bad news for Amare: after the dust settled, the fire extinguisher came out on top. Surely, the Knicks had little to no chance of winning the series, but with its second scoring option out for the foreseeable future against one of the best defensive teams in the league, New York was all but eliminated as fast as you can say “Amare’s a dumbass.” Not only that, but when the 6-10 Stoudemire went down, the Knicks were forced to play small ball, taking away quite possibly the only advantage the Knicks had, their size.
1. Lew Alcindor
The man now known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar was once upon a time a very stubborn and, apparently, not very sharp young man. During a pre-season game in 1974, Alcindor was hit by an opposing player and, being so infuriated, swung at and punched the basket support. He broke his hand and missed 16 games. Ok, you’re probably thinking “that’s excusable, what’s the big deal?” Fast forward to the 1977-1978 season opener, now as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and facing his former Bucks team, Kareem loses his temper once again. This time, after being elbowed by Kent Benson, Abdul Jabbar punches Benson, breaks his hand, and is forced to sit out for two months. You would imagine that after missing significant time for punching an inanimate object, Abdul Jabbar wouldn’t take his chances with a human being, but apparently he didn’t learn from the first time around. I’m assuming he finally did learn his lesson as, after this injury, Abdul Jabbar never missed more than 8 games in a single season.
10. Tim Duncan
That’s right, the most mild-mannered man in the NBA has two tattoos and one of them is this bad ass death jester! Combine this with his knee brace and you start to think maybe he’s hiding some sort of hard-core alter-ego that he keeps from the public because he knows we just can’t handle it.
9. Kenyon Martin
Supposedly, Martin has an exact replica of his one-time girlfriend’s lips tattooed on his neck. Just too odd to not make the list.
8. Quentin Richardson
Yeah, there is a lot going on here, but you’ve gotta love the Chicago skyline. I can take or leave everything else here, but it is interesting to say the least.
7. Brad Miller
A seven foot monster of a man has a tattoo of a cartoon dog on his bicep? Yes please. Miller gets some recognition for having the cajones to put a cartoon on his body for the rest of his life. However, he certainly picked a winner in Scrappy Doo.
6. Marquis Daniels (top) and Udonis Haslem (bottom)
Clearly, this is not the most original tattoo in the world if two guys have seemingly the same exact thing tattooed in the same exact location. But these two deserve some credit for their dedication to their home state, though I have to give the edge to Halsem for having a more geographically accurate depiction of the sunshine state.
5. Amare Stoudemire
Stoudemire has a tattoo on his neck that reads “Black Jesus.” Need I say more?
4. Chris Anderson
This guy should get recognition for his entire body of work, Anderson gets some much deserved love here for incorporating his nickname of “Birdman” into his tattoos. Yeah, he has wings tattooed on his arms. Wings, Birdman, get it? His “Free Bird” tattoo isn’t nearly as original, but it still deserves some ink (pun absolutely intended).
3. Stephen Jackson
Yes, those are two hands praying while simultaneously holding a pistol. I never said these had to make any sense.
2. Nikola Pekovic
As if his opponents needed any more reason to be afraid of this man. Pekovic’s warrior tattoo is simply perfect for him. Stare at it for 2 seconds and tell me it doesn’t give you the creeps. I can only imagine his victims in the post are merely trying to avoid adding to the pile of skulls Nikola’s throne sits upon.
1. DeShawn Stevenson
And finally we come upon number one in the countdown. There is just so much to analyze here, so let’s get right down to it. First off, the man has one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States tattooed on his body. Why? Well, Stevenson explains, in so many words, that he did it to honor the man who ended slavery. That is a noble gesture, but what about those 5’s? Stevenson says “I had to put the 5’s on each side because nobody could recognize Abe. They kept asking me who it was?” Considering the tattoo is a stunning replica of the 16th President, it seems like the 5’s were entirely unnecessary and don’t help to clarify all that much, but what do I know? Lastly, and most obviously, the tattoo is planted firmly on Stevenson’s throat, a very unique placement if you ask me. Now when you look DeShawn Stevenson in the eyes you’ll be staring right in the face of one of the greatest men to ever live, and no, I do not mean DeShawn Stevenson.
Any tattoos that I left off the list? Comment below and let me know!
Flash back to February 2010: Amare Stoudemire is set to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland. Of course, in the end the trade fell through and James was working his way out of his hometown. The Cavaliers had a shot to land another superstar to team up with James, but they balked at the idea for several reasons, Stoudemire’s shaky health chief among them.
One major reason the Cavs were reluctant to pull the trigger on this trade was because they thought they might have a future star on their hands and didn’t want to give him up. Surely, this trade is a prime example of not only the Cavs failure to appease James and convince him to stay, but also of the fall of that rising star: JJ Hickson.
Hickson had shown flashes of brilliance in a limited role with Cleveland team that finished the season 61-21. In his second season in the NBA, Hickson averaged 8.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg on 55.4% shooting from the floor. He was considered a building block for a team that had little else surrounding James. His upside was such that the Cavs ultimately decided he was worth more than a shot at pairing Stoudemire with James.
In Hickson,Clevelandhad a forward with good size, great athleticism, and an incredibly appealing upside.
However, we all know how the story played out for the Cavaliers: James bolted in free agency and the team was left to pick up the pieces on a haphazardly assembled roster.
As a result, Hickson was rewarded with more playing time during the 2010-2011 season and asked to carry a much heavier load for this rebuilding team. Yet, rather than budding into the star the Cavs brass hoped for, Hickson showed his limitations.
In 80 games, 66 of which were starts, Hickson played 28.2 minutes per game but converted on 10% fewer of his field goals than the previous season and averaged 3.7 turnovers per 48 minutes.
His stock lower than it had been since being drafted 19th overall by the Cavs in 2008, Hickson was traded this offseason to the Sacramento Kings for another fading prospect, Omri Casspi. After suffering through 35 miserable games with Hickson, in which he shot 37% from the field and averaged 4.7 points per game, the forward was released outright.
In all of two seasons, Hickson had transformed from a promising prospect to being rejected by one of the league’s five worst franchises.
However, Hickson managed to find a soft landing spot Portland and has managed to turn some heads in the process. Since being picked up by the Blazers off the waiver wire, Hickson has averaged 14.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, had five double-doubles, and four 20 point games. Best of all, he has strived in two areas that plagued him in the past. With Portland, he is shooting 55.5% from the floor and turning the ball over only 1.2 times a game while playing a career-high 30.1 minutes a game.
Surely, much of Hickson’s success in Portland will deservedly be attributed to the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge has been injured during much of Hickson’s stint in the City of Roses. Certainly, more opportunity has led to more success for Hickson.
However, he had plenty of chances to show his worth during the past three seasons in both Cleveland and Sacramento, but just could not stick. Pride may be kicking in and Hickson is trying to show he belongs. Maybe he is motivated by the fact that this offseason he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Whatever the explanation may be, the fact remains that Hickson is playing quality basketball. In fact, he has done the unthinkable: he has gone from rising star to NBA failure, only to reemerge once again as an intriguing prospect. Hickson is still only 23 years old and although his future may not be in Portland, the Trail Blazers certainly have a reborn player on their hands.