The Lakers are a good offensive club, but not nearly good enough to mask the defensive deficiencies presented by a starting backcourt with an average age of 36 years old and a hobbled Howard protecting the rim.
Three different coaches have tried their luck with this roster and only one (interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff) has found any sort of success. Bickerstaff's coaching philosophy was based on avoidance, simply letting the players dictate the course of the game.
The Lakers clearly need more than a change in philosophy. They need a massive upgrade in talent—an unimaginable statement some three months ago.
Enter disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love.
Like the Lakers, Love's 2012-13 season began with a series of unfortunate events.
Fresh off capturing Olympic Gold with his Team USA mates in London over the summer, Love fractured his right hand during a preseason workout. Clearly bothered by the injury, Love shot below 50 percent from the field in each of his first eight games, five of which resulted in losses for his club.
What made matters worse is the fact that the big man, much like the Lakers, appeared on the verge of greatness in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. With Love surrounded by his most talented supporting cast since arriving in Minnesota in 2008, the Timberwolves emerged as one the trendiest sleeper picks of the summer.
The brief glimpse of the Love-Ricky Rubio tandem in 2011-12 nearly pushed the club beyond consideration as a sleeper.
His nightmarish start spiraled from bad to worse when he gave Yahoo! Sports scribe Adrian Wojnarowski a revealing interview, during which he questioned the direction the franchise was headed.
If the trade winds weren't already swirling through the Twin Cities, then Love's comments (and the resultant media frenzy) boosted those winds to hurricane force.
With Love once again sidelined by a fracture in the same hand, there's no better time than the present for the Timberwolves to finally entertain those rumors. Minnesota GM David Kahn will get a clear look at what exactly he has on the frontcourt behind Love and accurately assess the needs of his club.
Should Kahn be inching his way toward the phone, then he'll hear the relentless ringing of Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's incessant calls.
The Lakers need a stretch four to maximize the effectiveness of coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system. Love is a more-than-capable three-point shooter, connecting on better than 37 percent of his long-range attempts in each of the past two seasons.
L.A. will never be a strong defensive club, but the addition of a reliable rebounder will help them close out defensive trips. Even with the lingering effects of his injury, Love's been as reliable as rebounders come (14 per game).
Kupchak will clearly have to channel his inner salesman to get Kahn on board with a package for Love that won't include Howard, Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash. He'll need to convince Kahn that Gasol isn't on the decline, but rather miscast in D'Antoni's system and capable of producing like his former All-Star self under the right direction.
The right direction, of course, being Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. Maybe Kupchak can conjure up images of a purple-and-black clad Gasol, seamlessly funneling the ball movement in Adelman's successful attack with the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s.
Gasol is more expensive in the short term (by about $10 million), but his contract expires a year prior to Love's early termination option. And Minnesota has depth in the backcourt (J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour), which would both intrigue the Lakers and round out the salary figures quite nicely in any projected deal.
Gasol would give the Timberwolves another offensive post threat to pair with big man Nikola Pekovic, not to mention free up more touches for dynamic rookie Alexey Shved.
It's the kind of typical Lakers trade that would leave opposing fans seething, with L.A. presumably upgrading at the forward spot and adding a capable backup point guard in the process.
But there's a reason that Kupchak has enjoyed a successful run at the Lakers' helm—the guy knows when to strike.
Love may be saying all of the right things now, but without multiple playoff series wins before that early termination option rears its ugly head (an unlikely prospect given the depth of the Western Conference), he's clearly thinking beyond the borders of Minnesota.
Even with the Lakers highlighting the fact that championships aren't won on paper, they'd have to emerge as Western Conference favorites in 2013-14 with a starting lineup of Nash, Bryant, Love, Howard and Metta World Peace.
It's a no-brainer for Los Angeles and could be well on its way to becoming one for Minnesota as well.
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