By Marty Burns
February 01, 2008
Trade Analysis: Gasol traded for Brown, Crittenton, picks
Pau Gasol -- F/C
Second-round pick
Kwame Brown -- F/C
Javaris Crittenton -- PG
Marc Gasol (draft rights) Aaron McKie -- SG
Two first-round picks
Gasol 39 18.9 8.8 3.0 .41 50.1 81.9
Brown 23 5.7 5.7 1.2 0.70 51.5 41.6
Crittenton 22 3.3 1.0 0.8 0.32 49.1 67.9
They needed another big man if they wanted to seriously contend for the NBA title, and Gasol is one of the league's best. The mobile 7-footer, an All-Star in 2006, can score in the low post, knock down the open 15-footer and get to the free-throw line. With his shooting touch and his ability to strike on the move, he should be a good fit for the Lakers' triangle offense. At age 27, he's also entering his prime. Though not physically strong enough to be a lockdown defender in the post, Gasol uses his length to block and alter shots. The one question about Gasol is his mental toughness and leadership. He has been called soft, with critics pointing to his 0-12 career playoff record. But Memphis was always the big underdog in those playoff series, and Gasol was strong enough to lead his Spanish national team to last year's world championship. Gasol will give the Lakers a big man who can help them stay afloat while center Andrew Bynum recovers from his knee injury. While some might wonder if the two big men could share the post (when Bynum returns in six weeks or so), it shouldn't be a big factor. L.A. runs most of the offense through Kobe Bryant anyway. The biggest drawback for the Lakers is Gasol's massive contract (he is due $49.4 million through 2011 after this season) and the fact that they will now be taking an even bigger luxury-tax hit. They also give up first-round picks in 2008 and 2010. It's a salary dump, plain and simple. By getting rid of Gasol's huge remaining contract, the Grizzlies suddenly become a major player in next summer's free-agent market. It's too early to say how much Memphis will be under the salary cap, but it will be enough for them to make a serious bid for Antawn Jamison, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas or any of the other top free agents expected to be on the market. The Grizzlies, in other words, now can get on with the rebuilding plan. Gasol was a 20-10 guy, but he wasn't really a good fit for the up-tempo, defensive-oriented style that new coach Marc Iavaroni wants to play. This move will allow more touches for blossoming forward Rudy Gay. It also gives 7-footer Darko Milicic, whom the Grizzlies signed to a big free-agent contract last summer, a chance for a fresh start after a lackluster first few months in Memphis. As for the main acquisitions, Brown could help some in the middle, but he's appealing more because of his $9.1 million expiring contract. Crittenton is a nice prospect, but Memphis already has two fine young point guards in Mike Conley Jr. and Kyle Lowry. The Grizzlies now have some options, though, for a future trade involving one of their young playmakers. They also have two more first-round draft picks. For a small-market club like Memphis that is facing financial difficulties, those can be valuable assets.
Well, Kobe, how do you like your Lakers now? Gasol makes the Lakers a legit contender in the West, and should put to rest any talk of Bryant being traded. It also raises the stakes a bit for the Mavs, Suns and Spurs in the West. Will Dallas now be more inclined to pull the trigger on a Jason Kidd deal? As for the Grizzlies, they can start planning for next summer when they figure to have a high lottery pick and a boat load of money to throw at a big-name free agent.

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