What Happens With Gasol Back?
Not counting on that exact production from the forwards during the four-game stretch, let’s add Pau Gasol back into the picture and see exactly how the minutes can be distributed but still allow for significant production:
Say Dwight Howard plays 36 minutes (he averages 36:06 on the season); all of which would be at the center position. That leaves Pau Gasol with approximately 12 minutes at the center position and 22 minutes at the power forward slot, given his current season average of 34:17 minutes per game; and also leaves 26 minutes open at the four slot.
This is a good thing for Gasol and the team as Pau is much better this season in D’Antoni’s offense at the center position with a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 27.4 compared with a PER of just 13.0 at the power forward slot. Additionally, his opponents’ PER is lower at the center position (10.1) compared with his opponents’ PER at power forward (15.4). Actually, Gasol’s numbers at center are better than Dwight Howard’s, but the percentage of time played at that position is quite low. Basically, the more minutes Gasol receives at the center position, the better for him because he’ll be more effective on both ends of the floor.
Anyway, this cuts the rest of the minutes for the other three players who excelled during the “Earlsanity” stretch down by those 22 minutes, though, and Metta World Peace averages around 35 minutes per game on the season; which is actually more than he did with Gasol out (33:14).
Therefore, if World Peace stays on his season average, it cuts the rest of the forwards’ minutes by 24. Subsequently, 39 minutes would be left to split between the two forwards, but the two could each average nearly 20 minutes (19:30), which is definitely a drop from their averages during the four-game stretch, but still significant enough to make an impact.
What was happening prior was that Gasol played the majority of his minutes at the power forward position, but farther away from the basket–which was hampering him on both ends of the floor.
Theoretically, when Gasol does take up those 12 minutes at the center slot, the remaining minutes at power forward (26) were previously split between Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill, and/or Antawn Jamison at the power forward position. Kobe Bryant often slid down to the three slot, however, essentially filling in for MWP, while averaging 38:36 minutes per game on the season. Thus, realistically, it only allowed for either Jordan Hill or Antawn Jamison to get some minutes at the power forward position–but not both of them.
The New Revolving Door
With Earl Clark, the “revolving door” focuses less on the center/power forward area, and more on the power forward/small forward area, and allows the Lakers to still compete with “small ball,” but also play big at the same time.
On the season, Antawn Jamison averages approximately 20 minutes while Jordan Hill had averaged 16 minutes– but they often got those minutes separately, or as a result of Pau Gasol being out. With Hill now out for the season, the two remaining backup forwards can average more minutes than that, and actually be effective together.
Again, let’s break down the possible minutes per front-court player:
- Dwight Howard: 36
- Pau Gasol: 34 (12 at C, 22 at PF)
- Metta World Peace: 35
- Antawn Jamison: 19.5
- Earl Clark: 19.5
- Total: 144 (which is also 48 minutes multiplied by three positions)
Obviously, those minutes won’t be concrete, and on some nights it might be Antawn Jamison or Earl Clark getting big minutes instead of Pau Gasol or sometimes even Dwight Howard. Or, some nights Antawn Jamison might get all of the minutes ahead of Earl Clark, or vice versa. The main point here is that the Lakers have options in the front court, and they can actually play all of their options significant minutes.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, Gasol actually did return, and the minutes were distributed relatively similar to what I had envisioned with World Peace playing 37 minutes and Pau Gasol playing 25 (a little less than expected due to his first game and coming off the bench), while Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison had approximately 22 minutes each.
Now, let’s see how the new rotation will affect the guards.
Next Page: How Clark Affects Kobe And The Back Court