33.8 MPG 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.2 BPG, .466 FG%, .702 FT%, 33 games missed due to injury
The seven-foot Spaniard had his worst statistical season as a Laker in terms of points, rebounds, and shooting percentages, but some of that may have been due to injury or to early unfamiliarity with Mike D’antoni’s offense.
In November and December and the early weeks of Mike D’antoni’s tenure, Pau Gasol seemed to be on the wrong end of an offensive experiment. He found himself attempting more mid-range jumpers than ever before and even a handful of threes for a short while. That’s not who Pau Gasol is. He’s a crafty, skilled post player on the low block. Pau Gasol’s efficiency increased as the Lakers began to use him in the same ways that he is accustomed.
In January, Pau Gasol didn’t look quite like himself. He suffered a concussion and missed five games. Soon after returning, Mike D’antoni decided to play Pau Gasol off the bench and start Earl Clark instead. Clark took the world by storm and played really well, but you have to wonder if that hurt him emotionally. Gasol had started 345 games for the Lakers and now was being asked to play a bench role behind someone who barely made it off the practice squad?
Gasol still hadn’t fully figured out his role in the new Lakers offense at the time that he went down with plantar fascia. He missed six weeks with this injury. When he returned, he actually looked like the Pau of old. He was scoring efficiently, rebounding well, and passing spectacularly for a big man.
The biggest concern with Pau Gasol as a whole this season was how he was on the floor with Dwight Howard. He had never had a real issue in a dual big man lineup with Andrew Bynum. Heck, they won two championships together. But with Dwight, it was different. The defensive spacing seemed off the whole year with both big men on the floor, and the defensive numbers were terrible when they shared the court. It was not uncommon to see miscommunication leading to wide open lay-ups off of pick-and-rolls. There were flashes of great ball movement between them offensively, but that was the exception–not the trend. Mike D’antoni even said it himself: The Lakers were best with only one of them on the floor. Unfortunately, they are both high enough caliber players that they needed to share the court during a portion of every game.
Who knows what’s in store for Pau Gasol next season? How will he respond from knee surgery this off-season? Will he return to the Lakers? Will they trade him? Will they amnesty him? If Pau stays, will Dwight stay too? There are questions surrounding everything for Gasol next season and his future is in total flux. I’d prefer that they get rid of him. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pau, but he doesn’t seem like a great fit with Dwight Howard, the most talented young player on the Lakers and the likely cornerstone of the future of the franchise. I’d prefer to trade him and get Josh Smith or another younger and smaller athletic power forward who can stay out of the paint and let Howard control the game and do his own thing, without interference from any of his teammates.
If Pau Gasol stays on the Lakers, with Dwight Howard, and the team is composed similar to the way it is now, I’d expect him to play more of a facilitating role like he did in the waning weeks of this past season. Gasol is an excellent decision maker at the high post and had six games with at least 9 assists, including the playoffs, after returning from injury. Defensively, it’s going to be difficult. He’ll need to communicate with Dwight more and develop better chemistry during training camp so they are on the same page in terms of assignments and roles on defense during the actual season.
This is a clip from Pau’s triple-double against the Warriors near the end of the season. Although the game is marred by Kobe’s Achilles tear, it also happened to be Gasol’s best performance of the year.
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