Simply put, I don’t want Kobe to be traded, unless he wants to be traded. Put even simpler, I don’t know if Kobe wants to be traded. It seems like the turmoil from yesterday has died down significantly (… or not), so I won’t keep drawing up trade scenarios for Kobe — I’m sure the Laker haters (I know y’all are out there) are sick of this nonsense already. But all I’m saying is, if trading Kobe is in the Lakers’ future, it’s better done now than later.
The reason the Lakers got hosed so badly when they traded Shaq (besides the incompetence of their front office) was because they drew out the process way too long, and, in the end, they were left with no better offer than Lamar Odom (a solid player in his own right), Caron Butler (eventual trade bait, sadly) and Brian Grant (a massive contract). Teams saw that they didn’t have to convince the Lakers to give up Shaq, and thus, they saw the opportunity to possibly get him for a discount. If Kobe can change his mind in a matter of 6 hours, then what’s to say what tomorrow holds? The Lakers have a choice to make (and I thank all that is holy that it’s not my choice to make) — either see what’s available for Kobe now and possibly snag a franchise player (a la Paul Pierce, or perhaps Tracy McGrady or Joe Johnson) or a combination of playoff-tested veterans (see below); OR risk Kobe waking up on the wrong side of the bed next week, deciding again that he wants to be traded, and potentially set the franchise back another few seasons by having no choice but to trade Kobe for spare parts.
Last post, I brainstormed Kobe going to the New York Knicks. While that would be great for the NBA, the Knicks’ organization, Madison Square Garden, New York City, and Kobe’s wallet, it probably wouldn’t get him that much closer to that NBA championship which he so desires, even in the weaker Eastern Conference. There is a place in the Eastern Conference, however, where Kobe could play for a team that is nipping at the heels of title contention, has a solid young core of players, and has a statue outside of the greatest player to ever play basketball, and quite possibly the only man that Kobe is not better than.
There are two ways that the Chicago Bulls could go about trying to acquire Kobe from the Lakers while keeping within NBA salary rules. Their young core of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon, Tyrus Thomas and whoever they select with the #9 pick in the draft — that’s 5 players total — all make something in the range of $3-4 million/year, and when Kirk Hinrich’s contract extension kicks in, he’ll be set for $11 million (!!) next season. In order to get Kobe, the Bulls would have to trade about 4 of the 5 players in that group, or Hinrich and 2 of the players in that group, to the Lakers, which would pretty much leave the Bulls with Kobe, Ben Wallace, a couple secondary guys, and a pretty barren roster afterwards.
The other way for the Bulls would be a straight-up trade of Kobe for Ben Wallace. The Bulls have pretty much accepted that they overpaid for Wallace last offseason, and while Big Ben improved their already-stellar defense, their offense remained pretty inept at times, especially against Detroit in the playoffs. However, trading Kobe for Ben Wallace straight up would be worse than the Shaq trade. No need for the Lakers to be the laughing stock of the NBA twice in the last 3 years (if that hasn’t already happened).
Here’s a pretty fair compromise:
Lakers trade Kobe Bryant and Kwame Brown to Chicago
Chicago trades Ben Wallace, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon and the #9 pick in this year’s draft to Lakers
For the Lakers:
- Kwame might make himself useful for the first time since joining the Lakers. He’d be Laker GM Mitch Kupchak’s bargaining chip, as if to say to Chicago, “So, you guys really want Kobe Bryant, do you? Well…” Kwame’s been nothing short of a disaster in his tenure with the Lakers. If Kobe must go, then getting rid of Kwame in the process would be nice.
- As Nate Jones of The FanHouse and Jones On The NBA has pointed out in the past, Chris Duhon is a solid fit in Phil Jackson’s Triangle offense. Much like ex-Laker Derek Fisher, Duhon can hit an open shot, and plays good defense. And Ben Gordon’s shooting ability more than makes up for what he lacks defensively. So long as either of them can simply stay in front of their man, they’ll be improvements over Smush Parker.
- Lots of good things are being said about this year’s draft class. Adding Kobe would mean that the Bulls are committing that much more to winning a championship, and thus, adding a high-priced rookie may not be in their best interest. But for the Lakers, a rookie like Florida’s Corey Brewer could contribute right away. A potential swapping of draft picks (the Lakers’ #19 for the Bulls’ #9) may be more enticing to Chicago.
- Besides defense, Wallace would bring something to the Lakers that has been missing greatly in the past couple seasons — experience. Wallace has been to the Finals twice, won once (Laker fans should remember that), and, in his one year in Chicago, helped the Bulls to their best season since the Jordan era. He may not be worth as much money as he’s getting, but he’s far from worthless.
- Giving up Wallace (not to mention P.J. Brown’s pending free agency) leaves the Bulls short on size, so getting Kwame could be very helpful to Chicago. One downside is that he is coming off of reconstructive ankle surgery, but an equally important plus is that he’s in the last year of his contract. Low risk, high reward.
- The pairing of Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon (both 6’3″) in the Bulls backcourt, though exciting to watch, had always put them at a disadvantage defensively. Kobe is automatically an improvement for the Bulls when it comes to guarding opposing 2-guards solely based on his height; furthermore, he’s also made the NBA’s All-Defensive Team six times. And, he’s Kobe fucking Bryant, for crying out loud.
- Losing Wallace is going to force Bulls coach Scott Skiles to give Tyrus Thomas more playing time. Thomas’ energy and rebounding were key components in the Bulls dominantly winning Games 4 and 5 against Detroit, yet Bulls coach Scott Skiles seemed hesitant to play him Games 1-3 of the series (all Bulls’ loses). If the Bulls pull this trade off, Skiles would have no choice but to play Thomas more minutes — and that could be a very good thing.
- Kobe has a trade clause in his contract, meaning that no matter how hard the Lakers and another team may work to pull off a trade, if Kobe don’t like it, it ain’t happening. That’s why Luol Deng, Chicago’s best and most improved player last season, is likely staying in a Bulls’ uniform no matter what happens. While it would be in the Lakers’ best interest (and would work out salary-wise) for them to try to get Gordon, Wallace AND Deng in exchange for Kobe and Kwame, the Bulls wouldn’t be improving much by trading away all 3 of them. Bryant would have to accept the Bulls trading away Wallace (because of salary issues) and Gordon (because Bryant would basically be replacing him), but if Deng came up in conversation, Bryant would probably put his foot down.