Best and Worst: Pau Gasol, Center Of Attention Once Again

Best and Worst: Pau Gasol, Center Of Attention Once Again


Pau Gasol

It’s been six years since Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers, and during this time, we’ve seen the best and worst of him.

The first half was impressive, to say the least, as he was a two-time All-Star and NBA champion while helping the Lakers to three consecutive Finals appearances. The second half was full of constant role conflicts, trade rumors, and injuries as the Lakers have failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs the past three seasons.

Heading into the seventh season of the Pau Gasol era, there is certainly division among Lakers fans. Some feel that Gasol will return to All-Star form while others feel that he is no longer capable. Regardless of what your opinion is of him, one thing is for certain: the Lakers need him at full strength if they want to make a push in the playoffs.

When discussing Gasol’s effectiveness this upcoming season, it’s important to recognize that the game has gradually changed. More teams have resorted to small-ball as a result of the Miami Heat’s success and the lack of skilled big men in the game. Many traditional power forwards like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have made the transition as centers and have been very effective.

With the departure of Dwight Howard, Pau now has the opportunity to play his natural position and is the ideal center in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Gasol’s versatility will allow him to finish in the lane, pop out for a jump shot, or make the pass to an open teammate out of pick-and-roll sets.

Heading into this season, Mike D’Antoni expects Gasol to have his best season and there should be optimism about his transition to the center position. Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) provided by show how he struggled at power forward but thrived at center:

Gasol at PF: 15.4, Opponent: 17.2 ; Net Production = -1.8

Gasol at   C: 22.0, Opponent: 14.4 ; Net Production = +7.6

There is a significant difference in terms of production, but this particular statistic becomes more valuable when comparing Gasol’s PER to last year’s All-Star centers where he ranked third:

1) Brook Lopez: 25.6

2) Tim Duncan: 25.5

3) Pau Gasol: 22.0

4) Dwight Howard: 20.9

5) Tyson Chandler: 20.6

6) Chris Bosh, 20.5

7) Kevin Garnett, 20.3

8) Joakim Noah, 19.1

One issue that should be mentioned regarding PER is that it is a metric primarily is used to measure offensive, not defensive performance. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gasol ranks third, it’s clear that he’s not as effective on the defensive end compared to other centers. In order to minimize these deficiencies, the Lakers have brought in athletic perimeter players to hopefully shrink the floor and put less pressure on Gasol to protect the paint.

It’s been three difficult seasons, but there should be high expectations for Gasol to return to All-Star form. He is clearly the second option again and should be fully recovered from knee tendonitis by the start of the season.

Many have written him off because he has lost his athleticism, but they shouldn’t mistaken that for loss of skills. When put in positions to succeed on the court, Gasol has delivered two championships and is still one of the best skilled big men in the game.

  • Daryl Peek

    If Kobe takes a traditional SG role and allows Nash to run the point in D’Antoni’s system, Gasol will have his best season ever and the Lakers will be a threat in the playoffs. By then Kobe will be at fully healed and rested Mamba strength for a playoff push. GO LAKERS

    • meep

      if he stick to his word, i think kobe going to take on a PG role to try to save his body in the long run. with nash age i think that a good idea, i dont think nash health will allow him to be the PG we all came to love. he need help from kobe

      • Daryl Peek

        Nah, too many people are jumping the gun on Nash’s decline. Nash led the NBA in assist at 10.7 a game in 2012. Last season was the first time he missed that many games in his entire 17 year career. The Nash injury is the only reason Kobe went into PG mode. Kobe was trying too hard to get Howard involved in the offense. This is why the team chemistry was so messed up.

        Watch, if Kobe is not ready at the beginning of the season Nash will be back to 10+ assist a game like two years ago.

  • 3339

    Pau is going to have a great season. He was terribly misused by dantoni last year, but I have a feeling that since dwight howard is on his 10th fresh start and Kurt Rambis is here that he will be back to the Pau Gasol from 2009-2010.