Now that the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks are both patiently waiting for the NBA playoffs to end, it's time to start looking at some potential deals that the teams can make.
Led by Kobe Bryant's 30 points per game in the postseason, the Lakers couldn't overcome a smoking-hot Oklahoma City Thunder squad that nearly swept them out of the playoffs en route to the Western Conference finals.
The Hawks couldn't even make it that far as the poor shooting of Josh Smith and the continued underwhelming play of Joe Johnson weren't enough to get by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
It's becoming quite evident that the current versions of these two squads can't make a run to the title in the future.
Fortunately, ESPN's Chris Broussard has an idea that mutually benefits the two teams.
Pau Gasol was the brunt of a lot of L.A. fans' frustrations after his seemingly soft and uninspired play helped contribute to the Lakers' early exit from the playoffs. He and Andrew Bynum are the two biggest trading chips that the team has if the Lakers are looking to shake up the roster.
As for Atlanta, well, Josh Smith has been the subject of fans' ire for quite some time. The 26-year-old lefty forward with what seems like unlimited talent has stretches of pure dominance that leave him on the brink of an All-Star nod, but he couples those stretches with frustrating periods of time that he spends lofting up one ill-advised jumper after another.
Keeping this in mind, Broussard has the Hawks sending Smith and the perennially disappointing Marvin Williams across the country and receiving Gasol in return.
So, how does this help each of the two teams?
The Lakers' End
From a sheer talent perspective, the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be winning this deal.
Pau Gasol is obviously a crucial piece of the puzzle for the purple and gold, but he's made more expendable thanks to the presence of another incredibly talented seven-footer on the roster. Andrew Bynum's size gives the Lakers brass room to work with.
Smith and Gasol are also players with very similar skill levels. When I ranked the top 100 players in the NBA, I had Smoove coming in at No. 22 and Gasol slightly ahead at No. 19.
However, the youth of Smith pushes him slightly ahead, assuming that the Lakers could convince him to extend his contract and stay with the team long-term. The addition of Marvin Williams, who will always be known as a draft bust, would also help provide much-needed depth at the 3.
A new beginning would do wonders for Smith, who has become a bit of a head case in the minds of most Hawks fans. He might make good on his prodigal talent if he had Kobe Bryant chewing him out after every bad decision instead of the passive Joe Johnson.
The Lakers would add a lot of athleticism and youth to their roster, two things that they sorely need to counteract Kobe's aging body.
The Hawks' End
Pau Gasol may be slightly less appealing than Josh Smith as a building block, but his presence would do wonders for this Atlanta squad. Plus, it gets rid of the always-frustrating and always-tantalizing Smith.
When I was deciding how I felt about this trade as a fan of the Hawks, I ran it by a few friends. One of them was in favor of the trade as soon as I told them that it involved getting rid of Smith and Marvin Williams. He didn't even need to hear who the team was getting in return.
While that's obviously a bit extreme, it does help prove the point. This team is in desperate need of a makeover after the ridiculous Joe Johnson albatross of a contract doomed the team to upper-level mediocrity for the next half-decade.
A true seven-footer like Gasol would enable the Hawks to shift their lineup around and let everyone play a more natural position. Al Horford could finally play the power forward role he's best suited for and he, Gasol and Joe Johnson would form an All-Star trio for years to come.
While a draft pick might be necessary for the Lakers to truly entice the Hawks into giving up on Smith, it would really just be an added benefit.
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