Lipscomb: Gasol trade is good for several Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies realized they were running in place, at best, despite a talented core of players, and officially went into cost-cutting mode by dealing center Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers. While this helps both teams achieve their goals -- it makes the Lakers an NBA-championship threat and gives the Grizzlies a chance to retool going forward -- what does it mean to players on each team from a fantasy perspective?
Pau Gasol: Gasol, the best player in Grizzlies history (sorry Shareef Abdur-Rahim), will step right into the considerable hole the injury to Andrew Bynum left at the 5 spot for the Lakers. While Gasol will move to the 4 once Bynum returns in March (more on him later), he will be asked to do many of the same things he's done for the Grizzlies during his seven-year career, but with considerably less pressure to put up huge numbers. From a fantasy perspective, some things won't change too much for Pau, like his steady 50 percent shooting from the field and his ability to grab eight rebounds a night. What will change is his scoring, especially once Bynum returns. Kobe Bryant averages 20.9 field-goal attempts per game, which accounts for 25.6 percent of the Lakers' field-goal attempts this season. L.A.'s second option, Lamar Odom, averages 10.8 shots per game. While Gasol's 14.3 attempts per game ranked him second on the Grizzlies, it's apparent his opportunities will decrease in Laker Land. Pau will still offer solid value in assists at the center position and, at least while Bynum is out, should be closer to two blocks per game, which would be a nice improvement from his current 1.4 average. He won't be one of the building blocks on your fantasy roster that you expected when you drafted him this season, but he'll remain a top center who can help you in multiple categories.
Kobe Bryant: Everything with the Lakers starts and ends with Kobe Bryant, but among those most greatly affected on the team, he is further down the list. Bryant's role will not change; while his shot attempts may decline slightly -- and I do mean slightly, remember this is Kobe we're talking about here -- he will still get nearly twice as many shots as any other Laker and serve as the primary facilitator. However, the fantasy category in which he's most likely to experience a reasaonable dropoff isn't scoring, it's rebounding. Bryant's current per-game average of 6.3 is his highest in five years, but don't expect that to continue. What little his owners will lose on the glass, they will likely gain in assists and field-goal percentage. I would be quite surprised if Kobe averaged fewer than six assists per game the rest of the way. I don't expect a major jump in his percentage, but 47 percent the rest of the way is certainly possible, since he won't be forced to shoulder the load as often with a versatile offensive weapon like Gasol around. Gasol's passing skills, combined with those that Lamar Odom already brings to the table, should help get Kobe more quality looks at the hoop.
Season of a Down
Lamar Odom is having one of his worst seasons, statistically. He is near or below season-worst averages in a handful of categories.
Ronny Turiaf: Just when it appeared the former Gonzaga star was going to get the majority of minutes in the middle for the next six weeks or so, the rug got snatched out from underneath his feet. In the eight games since Andrew Bynum went down, Turiaf was a steady contributor whose value was found in his 2.5 blocks per game. That value just went out the door and he's no longer a savvy pickup in deeper leagues.
Andrew Bynum: Bynum was arguably the fantasy value of the year prior to his knee injury in early January. When he returns for the Lakers in the middle, he'll bump Gasol to power forward and Odom to small forward, forming a dangerous front line. However, Bynum will have more competition on the glass, and his shot attempts won't be as plentiful, either. And that's assuming that he returns at the same physical level which made him an All-Star candidate in the first two-plus months of the season. In addition, Bynum's keeper-league value takes a sizable hit as well, because Gasol still has three years left on his deal, which means Bynum won't be the only "man in the middle" for the Lakers.
No Gasol? Fill'er up!
Pau Gasol missed seven games as a member of the Grizzlies this season. Here are the players who stepped up most in his absence.
Mike Miller: Many felt Miller couldn't improve upon his breakout 2006-07 campaign, but think again. You could argue he was already enjoying a slightly better season, because of his improvements in rebounding and field-goal percentage, but it's about to get that much better. While Miller averaged 15.5 points and 2.0 3-pointers in 37.5 minutes per game in 38 games with Gasol in the lineup this season, those numbers jumped to 23.3 points and an astounding 3.6 3-pointers in 40.7 minutes when Gasol wasn't around. His rebounds and assists, already impressive this season, were nearly the same. Needless to say, the former Gator's stock is up.
Rudy Gay: The story's the same with Gay, who averaged 18.8 points on 45.9 percent shooting and 5.9 rebounds with Gasol. Without Pau, Gay would rank among the NBA's top scorers: 25.3 points on 51.9 percent shooting and 7.4 boards per game. And that's in just two more minutes per game. If Bynum was the best hindsight draft-day value at the time he went down, Gay is that today.
Kyle Lowry: While the team's point guard of the future, Mike Conley, played in only one of the seven games Gasol missed, it's worth mentioning Lowry because he's currently running the point while Conley is sidelined. Lowry has shown he's deserving of playing time, with strong performances when given the minutes. He averaged 32.1 minutes when Gasol didn't play, putting up solid averages of 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field. Once Conley returns and takes some of those minutes away, he won't be as effective, but enjoy the huge minutes he'll receive in the meantime.
Darko Milicic: You would think Darko would benefit here, since he now has to battle only Brown for minutes in the middle. But outside of a 14-point, 16-rebound effort in 40 minutes on Wednesday, he typically hasn't seen increased minutes when Gasol has been out (25.4 minutes compared to 23.7 with Gasol in there). Outside of blocked shots, Milicic is simply too erratic to be trusted.
Kwame Brown: Much like Milicic, Brown has been a major disappointment and nothing will change in this uptempo Memphis attack. If he splits the minutes down the middle with Darko, then maybe he can average 6-7 rebounds per game, but there's nothing to see here.
Hakim Warrick: While Warrick averaged nearly 21 minutes without Gasol, his performances were scattered, and he's worth considering only in the very deepest of leagues a shot in the dark.
Mike Conley: Conley, when he returns from injury, won't be as affected by Gasol's departure as he could be by the emergence of Lowry. He is a ball distributor first and a scorer second, so his job remains basically the same. Keep an eye on how coach Marc Iavaroni divvies up the minutes among his point guards.
Keith Lipscomb is an editor for ESPN Fantasy Games.