A Fully Utilized Pau Gasol Is Peaking At The Right Time

Steve Nash and Pau Gasol

A big part of the overall improved play down low has started with Gasol’s positioning on the court, the Lakers’ willingness to run the offense through him, and his renewed confidence.

No, the 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists aren’t much higher than his season averages of 13.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists; but the change in field goal percentage from a season average of 46.4 to 55.7 certainly is. This is directly due to him operating closer to the basket; as 66.0 percent of his shot attempts have come from nine feet or closer to the basket as opposed to just 51.2 percent coming in that range prior.

In turn, the Lakers have finally managed to develop a solid inside-out game after trying to run pick-and-rolls down to Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant’s respective last bone.

When Gasol is utilized as the offensive hub down low, good things seem to happen for everyone.

Take for example the assists distribution between the team on Tuesday night’s victory over the New Orleans Hornets:

  • Kobe Bryant: 6 assists
  • Steve Blake: 6 assists
  • Earl Clark: 5 assists
  • Dwight Howard: 4 assists
  • Pau Gasol: 4 assists

I’m a strong believer that using all players’ strengths and abilities gives a team the best chance to win, and this particular team has multiple scorers and multiple play-makers.When Steve Nash returns (which will hopefully be soon), hopefully the Lakers can continue to use Gasol as the hub down low, and also use Nash’s pick-and-roll prowess as well.

Prior to allowing the ball to run through Gasol, the big men down low (Gasol and Howard) simply weren’t consistently getting enough shots.

Now, with them looking to facilitate through him, everybody is getting quality touches. I’m not just talking about shots, either. When Kobe or Nash dominate the offense, they either take a shot or get one of theirteammates the ball in position to score.

However, that doesn’t always develop the best rhythm as not all players are catch-and-shoot guys or just want to catch and finish a play. Some want to be involved in other ways as well.

With Gasol facilitating down low, he simply keeps the ball moving around and allows others to make plays off of his decisions as well; as witnessed by the assists distribution above.

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Certainly, the whole team can get used to this, and it can make things much easier for everyone.

Nash and Kobe won’t have to do all the work breaking down defenses, and the big guys down low can literally touch the ball more–which always boosts energy on both ends of the floor.

Similarly, this inside-out play leads to even more cutting to the basket and popping out for long range shots–which plays to the strengths of guys like Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks.

Final Thought

It’s nice to see Pau Gasol in his comfort zone out on the floor. While he isn’t the sole key to the Lakers’ success or offensive fluidity, he’s certainly an intricate part of it–or at least should continue to be, going forward.

Once Nash returns, if the team can build upon the style of play they’ve developed over the past seven games, the possibilities can be endless on the offensive end.

Nash has already become more of a scorer than a passer on this team, but perhaps feeding off Gasol as being the hub in the middle can create avenues for him to make more plays for others as well.

With just four games left in the regular season, it certainly took a while to finally get Pau Gasol healthy and comfortable on the offensive end, but thankfully he’s being utilized correctly and performing well at the right time.

Now, the Lakers just have to focus on playing solid defense for 48 minutes at a time.

 

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