Pau Gasol will be returning to a role he hasn’t had for three seasons: the side-kick. Gasol has seen the likes of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard take the majority of the minutes at center and be the biggest post presence for the Lakers these last couple seasons.
Now’s the time for Gasol to take back the reigns of the purple paint of Staples Center.
Pau Gasol has always been best off as a player from the post. But lately, much too much of his action has been taking place from outside the painted area. Here is his shot distributions from the 08-09 season, which was his best as a Laker:
Gasol was terrifyingly efficient that season, shooting 56.7 percent from the field–10 percent better than last season–and much of this had to do with the quality of shot he was getting that year. Over three-quarters of his shot attempts came inside the paint and 46 percent of his shots were at the hoop.
But the shot distribution from last year was pretty different, especially due to many of D’Antoni’s schemes early in the season that had Gasol touching the ball on the perimeter and in the high post.
As you can see, Pau took more shots from mid-range than under the basket! This is absurd for any player, let alone a seven-footer. The low-quality shot attempts led to Gasol being a non-factor in many Lakers games due to his inefficiency.
Another fascinating story from last year pertains to Gasol’s poor play while sharing the court with Dwight Howard. With Howard on the court last season, Gasol scored just 0.92 points per possession. With Howard on the bench, he scored 1.07 points per possession, a drastic improvement. What was this caused by? You guessed it. Shot type. With Howard on the floor, he was 10 percent more likely to shoot a jump-shot than without him on the floor. The initial plan was for the Lakers to use Howard and Gasol both in the post. The test of time proved that to be impossible. With both players in the post there was too much commotion in the paint and the offense would not function. As a result, Gasol was confined to a role on the perimeter, where he is less comfortable and less effective.
As it stands now, Pau Gasol is the Lakers starting center with Chris Kaman coming off the bench. With Pau Gasol as the lone low post presence for the majority of his playing time this season, I’d expect his offensive numbers to improve by a large amount in the upcoming season, particularly his efficiency. As much as I love Pau Gasol making stunning assists from the high-post and from behind the three-point arc, I’d love even more to see Gasol scoring 18 points a night again shooting over 50 percent from the field. That’s just me.