As reported earlier this afternoon, the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers have worked out a blockbuster to send center Pau Gasol and a second round draft pick in 2010 to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol, and first round draft picks in 2008 and 2010. Gasol has been rumored to be traded out of Memphis for years now, but it seems odd that he would end up in Hollywood. Nonetheless, it gives the Lakers a very potent frontcourt of Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum when he returns from injury. Also, this may be a precursor to another blockbuster that would send Jason Kidd to the Lakers (and would thus increase the fantasy value of his current backup, Marcus Williams).
The fantasy impact for all of the players involved should generally be positive. Gasol will be paired with one of the best superstars in the game, which will help him avoid double-teams and give him open shots in the paint. Although his total shot totals may drop, Kobe Bryant has demonstrated that he is focused on victories and has dropped his shot total in each of the past two years. Therefore, Gasol should continue to provide solid percentages, scoring, and rebounding, while possibly increasing his assist total due to a better surrounding cast. Furthermore, Bryant should be able to garner more assists and better defensive and shooting numbers, since the addition of a prized big-man will only help to deflect some attention from him. Finally, Lamar Odom remains a large beneficiary to the deal. Eventually, he will move to his more natural small forward position, and although his rebounding numbers may decrease in that instance, he will be helped with better looks at the basket.
On the other side, Kwame Brown has gained tremendous value simply by leaving Los Angeles for small-town Memphis. Lakers’ fans turned on Brown awhile ago and have been relentless in booing the oftentimes sensitive center. In a smaller market, Brown may actually be able to see more minutes and much less pressure, which will help in his growth (yes he is still developing even though this is his seventh year in the league). Crittenton, who struggled to find playing time in the Lakers’ rotation, will now back up Mike Conley, who has been a huge injury risk in his rookie season. Keep an eye on Crittenton and pick him up if Conley gets injured and Crittenton is promoted to starting point guard. In general, players such as Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Darko Milicic, and Mike Conley will all likely take more shots without Gasol in the middle. But the reality is that without a dominating post presence, open looks will decrease and percentages, as well as scoring offense, will suffer for all four of these fantasy players. It is possible that Rudy Gay steps up to become the #1 option for the offense. However, what is more likely is that the Grizzlies falter and pick in the top 5 of next year’s draft.
I would classify this trade as a big win for Los Angeles, as they did not give up any of their current young core of Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Ronny Turiaf, or Lamar Odom for Gasol. However, Memphis does gain an expiring contract, a rookie with upside, two draft picks, and payroll flexibility. In fantasy terms, it seems that Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom have found a partner to play with on the inside and all three (along with Gasol) will be better off in producing stats. Memphis players may get more opportunity, but without such a dominating force in the middle, players such as Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley will struggle to keep up their current numbers.
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