By Tolulope Oladele
After the Dallas Mavericks swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, it became painfully obvious that Kobe Bryant’s days of carrying the Lakers to the promised land are now numbered. The Lakers front office must now plan for the future and bring in younger talent that will enable the Lakers to stay competitive while Bryant is still effective. With new head coach Mike Brown, the Lakers get defensive and no longer have the triangle offense, so it is essential that they find the right fit.
For the past couple of seasons, it has been rumored that Pau Gasol is be on the trading block due to his inconsistent play and “soft” demeanor. During the summer, Gasol was rumored to have been offered for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, a trade that could still happen before the trade deadline. Gasol and Love are both All-Stars, but bringing Love to Los Angeles will not fulfill the Lakers’ title aspirations.
If the Lakers swap Love for Gasol, they will be losing one of their most intimidating traits: size. The Lakers have already traded away the 6’10” small forward Lamar Odom for virtually nothing and this trade would bring them from the 7-foot Pau Gasol to the 6’9” Kevin Love. In the NBA, size matters a great deal because it increases your chances of alternating and blocking shots. As proof of this, Kevin Love is a career 0.50 shot blocker while Pau Gasol is 1.7 shot blocker.
To Love’s credit, being undersized has not hindered his rebounding ability. Love has an innate feel for cleaning the glass and boxing out his opponent. Last year, Love had double-double streak lasting 53 games, falling two short of Elvin Hayes’ consecutive double-double streak. Love also posted the first 30/30 game since Moses Malone in 1982. Thus, Love’s rebounding prowess would be greatly appreciated in Los Angles alongside Andrew Bynum.
Not only is Love an exceptional rebounder, but he is also a willing passer and an even deadlier spot-up shooter. He has a .462 career field goal percentage and .377 career three-point percentage, so his accurate shooting would really change the Lakers’ identity on offense. With Love, the Lakers would be able to play inside out with four shooters surrounding Bynum, very similar to what the Orlando Magic do with Dwight Howard. Also, this would really allow Bynum to blossom as a dominant force down low since he would not having to compete with Gasol for touches.
Yet, with all of Love’s capabilities on offense, his defense leaves much to be desired. Not only is Love undersized for his position, but he also lacks the athleticism to make up for it, something that is very apparent in below average lateral quickness and perimeter defense.
Still, the real question in this trade scenario is whether can Love handle the transition to a larger market with entitled Lakers fans and critical Lakers’ media? Love graduated from UCLA, but that atmosphere can’t compare to playing at the Staples Center. Also having Love stretch the floor on the perimeter will diminish his rebounding game, which is how he gets going. The trade would not be terrible since the Lakers are getting younger and Love could improve tremendously, but he still isn’t the type of player the Lakers need to get Bryant back to the finals.