The Memphis Grizzlies dealt a big man on Friday, just not the one everyone expected. While trade rumors have surrounded forward/center Stromile Swift for weeks – and the current word on the street is that he'll be in New Jersey by the end of the weekend – it was team centerpiece Pau Gasol who was shipped out of town first. Gasol was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton and two future first round draft picks.
Rather than focus on the fact that the Grizzlies didn't receive a legit starter in return for their All-Star talent, let's look at how the deal shakes up the fantasy landscape for those players and teams involved.
First, and foremost, things aren't likely to change drastically for Gasol, at least from a fantasy perspective. He possesses the offensive and passing skills to easily assimilate his game to the Lakers' triangle offense. Obviously, the offense will still run through Kobe Bryant, but if a raw talent like Andrew Bynum could notch 13 points a night alongside Bryant, there is no reason to think that the more offensively-proficient Gasol can't at least match his current 18.9 clip as a member of the Lakers. I expect Gasol to be a very close version of the 18-19 point, 8-9 rebound, 1.5 block, .500 percent shooter that we've come to appreciate in fantasy circles. And playing alongside the league's No. 2 scorer, Gasol could boost his assist average into 4-plus territory.
The real question is how things will shake out in Memphis. Forget about Brown and Crittenton. They were non-factors in Los Angeles and that is unlikely to change in Memphis. Looking at the team when Gasol has been out of the lineup, Rudy Gay, Mike Miller and Juan Carlos Navarro have seemingly benefitted most, and that should continue to be the case.
In the seven games Gasol has missed this season, Miller has typically moved from shooting guard to small forward, with Navarro moving into the vacated shooting guard spot and Rudy Gay sliding from small forward to power forward. Sans Gasol, Gay has averaged 25.3 points, Miller has dropped 23.3 points and Navarro has chipped in with a 14.0 clip. Compared to their season averages, this trio has combined to produce 14-plus more points with Gasol out of the lineup, making up for the majority of Gasol's lost scoring output.
Gay has also seen marked improvements in rebounds (7.4) and shooting percentage (.518) with Gasol out, presumably because he's playing closer to the hoop more often at power forward. And Miller has also enjoyed a subtle bump in assists (4.6 without Gasol compared to a season mark of 3.8) and shooting percentage (.522 without Gasol compared to a season average of .508). Navarro's most significant contribution in a Gasol-less offense has been an average of 2.7 three-pointers. He'll definitely have value for deep-ball seeking owners.
While the price for Gasol looks like a giveaway, the deal caters to the style of each team. Gasol can thrive in a half-court triangle system while Phoenix wannabe Memphis can run (and run, and run) with a small-ball lineup, one that has averaged a few extra shots per game when Gasol has been sidelined.