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Chris Paul deal does not improve the Lakers, unless a Dwight Howard deal is next

Dec 8, 2011, 8:16 PM EDT

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If the three-team trade between the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets is finalized as expected when the league opens for business on Friday morning, L.A. will have sent Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom out of town in exchange for Chris Paul  — and possibly another piece to make the salaries match, like Emeka Okafor. In doing so, L.A. gets the league’s best pure point guard, but gives away two of its three key frontcourt players responsible for two championships and three trips to the NBA Finals.

As exciting as it is to add a player like Paul, whose competitive fire is matched only by that of Kobe Bryant, it’s a big risk to blow up the core of a team as successful as L.A.’s has been, and to go in an entirely new direction for the first time in four seasons.

In short, if the Lakers are done dealing, they just got worse.

The thing is, in all likelihood, the Lakers aren’t finished at all. By pulling off the deal for Paul without giving up Andrew Bynum, there’s still a shot for L.A. to land Dwight Howard in a trade involving the Lakers’ young big.

But we’re not there just yet, so let’s take this one at face value. The Lakers’ size was a key component in getting them to those three straight Finals from 2008-2010, so sending two of those guys packing is no small decision.

Gasol is to this day tagged as being soft by the uninformed, but he’s among the most skilled all-around big men the league has to offer. He scores and rebounds at an All-Star level, and commands a double-team from most teams in the post, where he’s just as effective finding the open man when the help comes as he is scoring the basketball.

Odom famously doesn’t bring his best game every single night, but he’s as versatile a player that the league has, and would most certainly be in the starting lineup for all but a handful of teams. With the Lakers, he came off the bench. That’s an incredible asset to have playing with the second unit, and isn’t something that should be understated.

Now, there’s no question that the Lakers desperately needed an upgrade at the point guard position. Derek Fisher as a starter might have been passable in the semi-triangle offense, one that seemed to end more often than the team would have liked in isolations for Kobe Bryant. But with a new head coach in Mike Brown installing a new offensive system, Fisher was not going to have the playmaking ability to run a more traditional offense. In that regard, the Lakers couldn’t have dreamed of doing any better than landing Chris Paul.

Once you get past the point guard position, however, it becomes evident that the subtraction of Gasol and Odom presents more problems than the addition of Paul solves. Who would the Lakers start at power forward? (And center too, for that matter, considering Bynum’s suspension for the first five games of the season.) Where’s the size and versatility off the bench? Who will be there to protect the rim and rebound?

If the answer ends up being Dwight Howard, then the trade for Chris Paul absolutely makes sense, and the Lakers will be the favorites to win yet another NBA title this season. But if L.A. is unable to flip Bynum to Orlando in a deal for Howard, then their championship window just got a little bit smaller.

  1. themonster700 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    worst deal in lakers history unless they get dwight

    • gpatrick15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:35 PM

      Acquiring the best player at his respective position for an all star and a role player (although a role player with a huge role in their system) cannot be considered the worst trade, even if they don’t get Howard. Think about it, if they retain Chris Paul for the remainder of his career (assuming they sign him to another contract after his extension is near its end in 4-5 years), doesn’t that keep them in the title hunt for years to come? it attracts marquee free agents like Howard, and it makes sure that the Lakers have a star player to transition from Kobe in the next few years. Win for CP3, win for the Lakers.

  2. willardj - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    I would love for the Magic to completely black ball the Lakers and hold on to Dwight and let him hit free agency, where he signs with someone else.

    • gpatrick15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:37 PM

      That would be all fine and good, but if he wants to play for the Lakers the black balling was all for nothing, because that’s exactly what the Magic would get in return for doing something so foolish. If Howard doesn’t agree with an extension with the Magic, trade him. He has all the leverage unfortunately so he’ll likely go where he wants too, by means of free agency (where they get nothing) or through trades.

      • willardj - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:45 PM

        The Magic would get cap space and would earn the favor of GM’s around the league, knowing that they caused the downfall of the Lakers.

      • gpatrick15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:52 PM

        Yes but they’d still be near the bottom of the NBA without Howard, especially if they get nothing in return. Respect from GM’s? The other GM’s would laugh at them for them doing something that hurts their franchise. Just like everyone is laughing at Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert for not getting anything of value from Lebron’s exit. The Nuggets did the smart thing and got rid of Carmelo when they could still get a good deal for him. The Hornets just did the same thing. The Magic will be fighting it out with Cleveland for last place in the east if they get nothing for Howard.

      • willardj - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:02 PM

        Yeah exactly. The way you rise to prominence in the NBA is by being the worse team in the league for a few years, accumulating high draft picks, and then turning those draft picks into good players. That’s what the Thunder did and it seems to be working out pretty well for them.

      • gpatrick15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:10 PM

        Just posted a similar comment at the bottom of this thread. I feel you on that. BUT…if you have a GM like Otis Smith that jumps at every trade, smart or not, instead of making smart decisions like RC Buford and Sam Presti, you’re bound for failure no matter the market size. Look at the knicks. They still have the stench of the Isiah Thomas era on them. No cap space for years, stupid trades for years, and bottom of the league for years. Its not the market, its the GM’s. Why trade for Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu’s albatross contracts knowing you have to try to keep Dwight? Why not make smart, cap friendly trades? Don’t say its not possible. OKC and San Antonio would suggest otherwise. But we both agree on that point anyway.

    • sbxxix - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:51 PM

      Tryin to rain on our parade. We’re taking the second super man from Orlando to win more ships and thats that brochacho

    • chuckj1234 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:43 AM

      Did you give any thought at all to this post before hitting the submit comment button??

  3. yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    Looks like Kobe better get used to the pick n’ roll.

  4. tastybasslines - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Trading 2 of your 3 bigs when the 3rd is always injured? Better hope Bynum stays in one piece if we don’t get Howard.

  5. dirtybird2020 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    I dint think dwight is a huge difference maker over bynum! When healthy bynum guards the paint at a tad bit lower level than dwight, dwight can rebound so can bynum, dwight can definitely score better than bynum, but bynum will be in a systen suited better for him with more expectations, id keep bynum and save some money for free agents! Dwight would be a upgrade but i dont know how big if bynum is healthy!

    • jimeejohnson - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      Dwight Howard is Superman. Andrew Bynum is not!

  6. goforthanddie - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    1-Paul will make each Laker better, at least offensively.
    2-Kobe has 2, maybe 3 Kobe-level years left. Kobe/Paul looks real good to any FA interested in a title run.

  7. seanb20124 - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Fat Khloe is mad.

    • efueshe - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:51 PM

      WHY must you go there.

    • sbxxix - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:03 PM

      At least she’ll get all that delicious southern food. Sh’e love that the same way Odom loves candy

  8. grimsreapers - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    I Guess ur forgetting the 2008 finals & 2011 playoffs when gasol/odom were useless

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:43 AM

      I guess you are forgetting the Lakers do not have two titles and three straight finals trips without Gasol.

  9. rabidmike - Dec 8, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Umm, if the league keeps going like this, with all it’s stars on only a handful of teams in major markets, I expect there will be along and lengthy lockout at some point with some hardline small market owners demanding measures for competitive balance…wait…WTF.

    • gpatrick15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:03 PM

      Small market teams can still be competitive. The Spurs, despite their inherent market disadvantages, have been competitive throughout the David Robinson/Tim Duncan eras. Oklahoma City has a nice team built now to win a championship. What do they have in common? GM’s that don’t jump at the first available trade and make smart free agency and cap decisions. The small market teams do have a disadvantage, but they have every opportunity to draft and create their own team. The Spurs put players around their stars. OKC has TWO stars, neither of which will be going anywhere. Blame the owners and the GM’s they hire.

      • 00maltliquor - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:18 PM

        It’s about time someone puts that out there to all these complianers and whiners! Nicely put gpatrick15.

      • dysraw1 - Dec 8, 2011 at 10:19 PM

        couldnt say it better

      • passerby23 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:29 AM

        I think you could say the same thing about the Jazz who were perennial playoff contenders for the better part of two decades until things strangely unraveled a year ago. Utah, not to offend Utah residents, has to be the toughest market to survive in and yet still managed to produce quality teams. It is a tougher haul for small market teams, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compete with the big boys. When’s the last time the Knicks won a championship?

    • poorlittlepinkus - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:19 PM

      Agree totally. Wasn’t this whole damn strike about bringing a end to the Heatles and Mello madness?

      As a magic fan, there’s no way to get true value for dwight even if he is traded.

      That pretty new arena in Orlando’s going to look pretty empty.

  10. joshuaemccoy - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    I think you underestimate Mitch and the front office in LA. Chris Paul is a real Kobe successor. Pau, he’s skilled, but expensive AND only getting older. Plus, we haven’t even seen one minute of play. You have no clue how this will work. Were you on the Heat bandwagon after the decision?

  11. sbxxix - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    You will be missed Lamar and Pau. Thanks for everything… Let the new era begin tho. At the end of the day I’m a Laker fan. It’s all about the purple and gold.

  12. 00maltliquor - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    Thank you for all of your contributions on and off the court, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. You 2 were greatly loved and appriciated by me and many L.A. fans. May God bless you 2 on your future endeavours and don’t take it too personal and just ball out for your new teams this season.
    -00maltliquor

  13. leearmon - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Dont worry, deal is dead

  14. seanb20124 - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    Twitter says deal is dead

  15. pastortodd78 - Dec 8, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    ESPN is reporting that the owners convinced Stern to kill it.

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