NBA Trade Rumors: Why L.A. Lakers Need Pau Gasol to Win the Western Conference

The NBA trade deadline is coming, and the L.A. Lakers will be scouting around for moves.  But the Lakers should remember that they desperately need Pau Gasol to survive the Western Conference playoffs.

Recent trade rumors suggest Gasol could be headed to Minnesota or to Houston.  Houston has coveted Gasol for years and even actually acquired him before the season.  They could offer a mix of Michael Beasley and draft picks.  

But no trade offer will make up for what Gasol brings to Los Angeles.  

Why do the Lakers need Gasol?  He is the perfect compliment to Andrew Bynum in the post, helps Kobe Bryant avoid double teams and makes the rest of his teammates better.  If the Lakers are to perform well enough on the court, stick together in the locker room and earn home-court advantage in the playoffs, they will need a healthy, motivated Gasol to do it.

In particular, Gasol's play-making and efficiency are shoring up an anemic Lakers offense.  Bryant's resurgence is getting all the attention, but it is Gasol's ability to set picks, chase off double teams and offer Bryant an offensive safety valve that keeps the Lakers going.  The Lakers offense is bad right now, but it is functioning and they are winning games.  Considering Gasol's impact, it's hard to imagine how bad their offense would be without him.

Gasol's loss would impact the Lakers defense as well.  He serves as Bynum's helper in the post and has the size to guard either power forwards or centers.  Without him, the Lakers' frontcourt defense will collapse, and there is not a chance they will survive the Western Conference playoffs.

Nonetheless, Gasol is only essential for the Lakers' 2012 title hopes.  

Are there any trades that make sense for Los Angeles' future?  Minnesota could offer a mix of Nikola Pekovic, their new up-and-coming center, Michael Be...

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