Lakers: What about Pau Gasol? The NBA’s overlooked playmaking big

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

While Nikola Jokic gets praised for his playmaking game, there is a Los Angeles Lakers legend that gets overlooked for the same quality.

As the Denver Nuggets realized a historic march through the 2020 playoffs, recovering two 1-3 deficits to reach the Western Conference Finals and face the Los Angeles Lakers, Nikola Jokic put together incredible numbers. Nuggets’ success comes from the overall threat Jokic represents on the floor, allowing the game to unfold through him thanks to his outstanding passing abilities.

So much, that he has been recently put in the conversation with passing centers like Arvydas Sabonis, Bill Walton, Wilt ChamberlainHakeem Olajuwon, and also deemed the best of all time in that regard.

But in hearing such heritage brought up, something feels wrong. Something is missing. Wait. What? Where is Pau Gasol in all of that? He certainly qualifies in that group of legends.

In an age when big men’s value was based on scoring ability, the Spanish star established himself as one of the premier passers from the post. This skill allowed him to fit seamlessly in the Lakers’ triple-post offense, creating great synergy with his teammates.

Pau shared the ball masterfully with his frontcourt mate Andrew Bynum, making the Lakers’ triangle almost an unstoppable system that allowed them to capture two consecutive championships.

Coming from Europe, with a great tradition of passing big men, Gasol immediately displayed the attitude to sharing the ball and the ability to create opportunities for his teammates, and kept improving it. In his first All-Star season, in 2005/06, he had a career-high 4.6 assists.

Through seven seasons in Los Angeles, he averaged 3.5 assists. In the dramatic 2012/13 season, after getting benched by Mike D’Antoni while battling injuries, he was reinserted in the starting lineup for the last 13 games, averaging 5.5 assists with two triple-doubles. In the subsequent four playoff games, it rose to 6.5 with another triple-double.

In his years in purple and gold, he probably was the best big man in the league to assist his teammates in scoring the basketball and definitely deserves a place in the Olympus of such players.

Pau is one of the greatest European players in the history of basketball and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

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One day, his jersey will be hanging on the rafters alongside those of his beloved late teammate Kobe Bryant.