Defending Marc Gasol from Los Angeles Lakers fans

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 01: Marc Gasol #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against Clint Capela #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at State Farm Arena on February 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 01: Marc Gasol #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against Clint Capela #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at State Farm Arena on February 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Explaining Marc Gasol’s ideal role in the Los Angeles Lakers offense:

LeBron James explained why Gasol makes a tremendous impact on the team.

I agree with LeBron. The Lakers need to use him for what he does best, not what JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard did best last season. Marc Gasol is not at his best setting ball-screens nor is he a threat to finish lobs like McGee or Howard.

Gasol’s role on the team is to be a facilitator from the top of the key. Gasol is an amazing passer with a very high basketball IQ. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel should listen to LeBron because Gasol is not always being used correctly.

When Gasol is in the game, the offense has to start with the ball in his hands for him to be effective. His job is to facilitate from the top of the key, which gives the Lakers’ offense a dimension they did not have last season. It is hard for elite scorers to get used to scoring off another teammate’s pass.

The fact LeBron James already bought into Gasol’s passing speaks volumes. 37.8% of LeBron’s baskets have been assisted this season in large part due to Gasol (and Dennis Schroder) passing him the ball, up nearly nine percentage points from last season.

Anthony Davis has also started to take the leap of faith that Gasol will get them easy looks on offense. This level of passing synergy is what AD enjoyed with Rajon Rondo last season (look at the second clip).  

Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol can even form a unique pick-and-roll combination, as seen by Gasol’s touch pass to AD. I distinctly remember Marc’s older brother Pau making this same kind of pass to Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom back in the day.

Ultimately, that is Gasol’s ideal role: to set up his other four teammates on offense. The only way opposing defenses can stop Gasol from dropping dimes all over the court is to send over the two help defenders guarding the corner shooter to stop the initial cut or duck-in.

Whenever the defense snuffs out the initial cut to the basket, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, often positioned on the weakside corner, will get several open three-pointers. Check out Gasol finding KCP on this perfect skip pass.

KCP is shooting a career-high 47.4% from three-point range this season. Gasol passing him the ball is part of the reason why KCP is shooting the ball with a high level of confidence. Gasol has also played a part in LeBron’s metamorphosis as a knockdown three-point shooter this season.

LeBron is averaging a career-high 41% from three-point range on a career-best 6.7 three-point attempts per game. If LeBron can sustain this level of shooting, the Lakers are going to repeat as NBA Champions – barring a Clippers-level collapse.

Gasol being a threat to knock down open three-pointers (if only he just shot them!) forces LeBron’s man to take an extra step back to account for no defender being positioned under the basket, as most of LeBron’s three-pointers are off the dribble against retreating defenders.

Opposing defenses often packed the paint last season because neither JaVale McGee nor Dwight Howard were a threat to score outside of the paint. Gasol at least makes his man guard him on the perimeter. But even if he does not make any more shots in his career, he can still be used effectively on offense.