With Dwight Howard in Houston, the Lakers will have a familiar face returning to the low post this season. Pau Gasol will be returning to the center position, and the vast majority believe this is a positive for the Lakers as they previously won back-to-back titles and made three straight Finals appearances (2008-2010) running the offense through Gasol down low.
Not only is this move anticipated to be a positive for the team, but it should positively impact Gasol’s individual game as well, especially with a renewed bill of health. Going into the last year of his contract, Gasol knows his chance for an extension is conditional on his performance this season.
How will Gasol’s return to the center position effect and impact his performance as well as the team’s performance? The Lakers Nation roundtable tackled this topic this week, and here’s what they had to say:
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Pau back at the center position is going to change things drastically. Simply put, it puts Pau back in his most effective area, which is in the post. When Pau is in his natural habitat, he’s an absolute mastermind. Much of last season, he was relegated to being an outside shooter and sometimes even a “Sixth Man.” With a player of Pau’s caliber, that simply didn’t work out.
So, what can Lakers fans expect from Pau Gasol? They can expect more of what we all saw from him towards the end of last season. In eight regular season games in April, Pau became the focal point of the offense and averaged 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists in 38.6 minutes of play. Don’t expect those numbers on a nightly basis, but if his knees hold up following a procedure over the summer, you can’t certainly take comfort in the fact that Gasol is still a very capable player.
Pau’s a willing passer who can read defenses, so him being in the paint anchoring the offense is going to help the team tremendously. Many times when the ball was thrown into the post (to Dwight Howard) last season, it was either kicked out, fumbled, or put up towards the basket. When it’s thrown into Pau, you can bet that he’ll be looking for cutters, spot-up shooters, and also looking to dominate his opponent.
The ball will certainly move more fluidly in and out of the post, and healthy permitting, we should see some brilliant plays and exploitations of opposing defenses by the likes of Gasol, Steve Nash, and Kobe Bryant.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Pau Gasol moving back to the center position might be exactly what is needed to get this team back on track.
Dwight Howard clearly wasn’t the answer at the center position last season. The NBA’s supposed “best center” couldn’t run the pick-and-roll and did nothing but clog the lane at times, limiting the team’s options inside the paint.
With Pau back at center, Steve Nash will be able to run the pick-and-roll to perfection. Although doubts still surround Pau and Nash in terms of how healthy both players will be this season, these two players are poised to have a big year if able to stay on the floor.
Pau has only made the All-Star team four times during his career in the NBA, and I believe he’ll earn his fifth selection this season as the result of his play. Big things could be on the way as Pau tries to secure his long-term future with the team.
Ramneet Singh (@RamneetSingh24): Pau Gasol is moving back to his natural position at the center spot, and I believe the change will not only benefit him, but also the team. The Mike D’Antoni system is designed with a versatile center in place, and Gasol certainly fits that role. Unlike many of the big men in the league, Gasol thrives in the mid-range, and he has no problem taking a shot a few feet back.
Over the past few seasons, Gasol’s level of production has slipped, and this was very evident last season when he had to share a frontcourt with Dwight Howard. Although on paper, the two big men formed the best one-two punch in the league, it did not translate to wins on the court.
However, in 2013-14 Gasol will be returning to a comfortable position, and he will be the recipient of many of Steve Nash’s assists. There is no one else really crowding the paint and that will give Gasol the ultimate freedom down low. The Lakers need Gasol to return to his All-Star level in order for them to make the postseason and once again, making him the center is certainly the right choice.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): One of the top things I am looking forward to this season is Pau Gasol returning to the center spot, or his “natural position.” Not only do I foresee this as the right move for Pau to bounce back after a previous season of career lows, but the necessary move for the team as well, especially on the offensive side.
Gasol has a lot to show to his team, the organization, the NBA, and the fans this year. After a tough season, he wants to prove that he is still that All-Star caliber player, and moving him back to center is the right setup for Pau to accomplish that task.
I believe this move will be a very effective and successful one for the team as well, which is rare considering the amount of unknowns with this team. If Steve Nash and Gasol can remain healthy, their two-man game will be very problematic for defenses.
Then, there is the Kobe Bryant and Pau two-man game, which is all about trust. When locked in, their combined basketball IQs and awareness of each other is something of beauty. I also look forward to watching the progression of Pau’s game with Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman and how they work off of each other.
Are we talking about a return of the 2009 Pau Gasol and the Lakers? That may be a reach. However, his return to the center spot is necessary and will make the team’s offense much more fluid.
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