Why Pau Gasol’s LA Lakers Tenure Is Not Tied to Dwight Howard’s Future

With the 2013 offseason looming, it’s widely assumed that the Los Angeles Lakers will trade Pau Gasol to shed salary and avoid a steep luxury tax bill. Although it seems like a foregone conclusion, that’s not exactly the case.

The Lakers have made it known that re-signing Dwight Howard is their top priority heading into the 2013-14 season. Retaining Howard’s services involves him signing a five-year contract worth roughly $118 million on a team with huge player salary commitments.

Thus, Gasol is expendable is the eyes of some.

The Spaniard will earn $19.3 million for the 2013-14 season and then see his contract expire. Conventional wisdom suggests that keeping Howard involves jettisoning Gasol.

Gasol plays the power forward and center positions at a high level, which makes him a valuable commodity. In addition, Mike D’Antoni’s early inability to devise a game plan in which Howard and Gasol could coexist certainly would make his exit understandable.

But in truth, the Lakers are probably better off keeping Gasol regardless of the result of Howard’s 2013 free-agency tour. If the three-time Defensive Player of the Year departs, the Purple and Gold will require a big man. And Gasol is certainly familiar with the role.

In the event that Howard comes back, Gasol has proven he makes Howard’s life easier. The Spaniard is an excellent pressure release point in the Laker offense and consistently finds the open man rolling at the rim.

During the course of the 2012-13 campaign, Howard benefited from this immensely, especially in the final month of the season. The tag team has the potential to dominate opposing frontcourts, an advantage that typically results in championships.

There is no substitute for talent. Trading away Gasol would probably bring back some interesting pieces, but he will probably be in the Hall of Fame ...

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