BY: RAMZY KAWAJA
It hurts me to write this, but including Kyle Lowry in an exchange for the more talented Pau Gasol – as recent rumors claim – would actually be a good thing for the Rockets.
Hear me out, Red Nation. This is a perfect time for this franchise to take that risk.
What, exactly, are our expectations of this team? How far can this current group get without a player to turn to when defenses tighten up? Many fans would be satisfied just making it to the second round of the playoffs, thinking it would be a successful year.
Not me. It would take more than just a slight tinker to get the Rockets over the hump the following year. With Luis Scola’s and Kevin Martin’s contract situations as they are, GM Daryl Morey’s task to make the necessary improvements needed to propel the Rockets to championship-level status becomes nearly impossible.
Let’s face it. Houston is not a desirable spot for the NBA’s best, especially with the current roster. Stars don’t shine as bright when they’re alone. The latest trend shows them grouping into clusters. Standing pat will eventually trap the Rockets in a dark abyss of mediocrity. Getting a former all-star like Gasol can have a domino-effect of attracting the best the game has to offer.
My philosophy is, “If they ain’t coming, go get ‘em.” It would be so much easier for a general manager to convince a stud to adorn a power red jersey if he were to be paired with another player of the same ilk. If these guys don’t want to sign here, then it forces Morey to get creative, even if it means you lose a player you love.
The Rockets built Lowry from scratch. He was as raw as a piece of meat on Fred Flintstone’s dinner table when he was acquired from Memphis a few years ago. To make him a wanted man all over the league, and then to get a player as good as Gasol in exchange, would be a huge win for the good guys.
The Rockets are built to thrive around the big man. Gasol would be surrounded by shooters if he were to hang his hat here. A player with career averages of 18.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks brings with him constant attention from opposing defenses. Players like Martin, Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic would flourish if given the space to operate.
You want to bring up age difference? Gasol can realistically give you at least three more all-star caliber seasons. One knows what he’s getting from Gasol. In a down year, the Spaniard is contributing 17 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game for the Lakers. That’s with him trying to squeeze off shots in between Kobe’s jack-ups.
Meanwhile, Lowry is having his best season ever, averaging 15 points and 7.5 assists a game.
The biggest question is who takes the place of someone who gives you so much, including intangibles, and not have it be such a glaring drop-off? The only way Morey has the testicular fortitude to confidently pull the trigger on this trade is if he believes Dragic is capable of giving at least close to the same production.
Defensively, Dragic has underrated on-the-ball skills. A physical player, he’s not intimidated by another player’s size and is willing to sacrifice his body for the charge call. The shooting is streaky, as is Lowry’s, and his ability to finish strong at the rim has been a pleasant surprise thus far. A big thing fans would miss, though, is Lowry’s ability to rebound in traffic. This takes pressure off the bigs and lets them box out more effectively.
As far as playmaking ability, in the two games Dragic has started for an injured Lowry, he averaged 9.5 assists while scoring 15 points per. I, personally, would feel comfortable having “Dragon” take over as the starting point guard for the stretch run.
Even if you don’t like Dragic as a long-term replacement, don’t forget that the Rockets have the rights to 6-foot-3, 190-pound Sergio Llull, who just finished his best season in the Spanish League, where he led his team to the title and was awarded the MVP of the championship game. Having Gasol play with his Olympic teammate in Houston sounds very intriguing. For more options, Deron Williams becomes a free agent this summer. With Gasol on the roster, one would imagine D-Will giving the Rockets serious consideration.
This city is thirsty for an all-star. The Rockets haven’t had a big man that can seriously impact the game since Yao Ming was able to run up and down the Toyota Center floor. The affinity coach Kevin McHale has for post players probably nudges Morey in the direction of a blockbuster mid-season trade for the most skilled power forward in the NBA.
Though it would be sad to see K-Low go, the opportunity to thrust the franchise in the direction that leads to trophies should not be wasted.