The Memphis Grizzlies entered this season being viewed as a darkhorse NBA championship contender. Thus far, through eight games, they haven’t looked the part. Sitting at 3-5 with losses to teams like the Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, the Grizzlies are taking a close look at themselves and determining if any steps need to be taken via trade.
Over in the Pacific Division, the Los Angeles Lakers are 4-6 and playing about as well as you would expect them to sans Kobe Bryant. The team has a surprisingly solid bench this year, but literally no starters that are playing like legitimate starters. Although Mitch Kupchak has made it abundantly clear that the Lakers are saving cap space for next summer, the fact that Staples isn’t being sold out for games anymore could add a certain sense of urgency that wasn’t previously there.
Zach Randolph, who along with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley spearheaded the Grizzlies’ resurgence over the past few years, is averaging three fewer points and rebounds per game than he did last year. That coupled with his massive salary has sparked some debate about whether or not Memphis should move him.
Pau Gasol, who was far and away the main reason Kobe Bryant managed to win two post-Shaq NBA championships, is also having a really bad year. His points and rebounds are about the same this season as they were last, but his shooting percentage is disgusting. Through 10 games it’s less than 40 percent – and we’re talking about a guy who primarily has had to play in the post.
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This week, Sam Smith of NBA.com suggested that perhaps the Grizzlies and Lakers could swap Randolph and Gasol.
Sure, Pau makes a lot. But the Grizzlies owe Zach Randolph $17 million for next season as well. Trading for Pau actually saves them money in the long run. And as Memphis has made no secret their future core is to build around Marc and Mike Conley, a return could invigorate Pau and put him as a second or third option where he is more comfortable. And out of the pressure of L.A.
Randolph, meanwhile, would be a strong piece for Bryant as he’s younger and more productive than Pau. And better for the Lakers to save the money for future free agent classes, which will be better than this summer’s.
Will this happen? Probably not. On paper, a clean Gasol-for-Randolph deal works. The problem with it is that a.) Memphis gets nothing out of it, and b.) the Lakers only temporarily get something out of it. Yeah, they need a ballhogging offensive option now. However, when Kobe Bryant returns, that’s not going to work particularly well.
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It’s a nice idea given that the Lakers and Grizzlies are playing tonight, but it’s not realistic.