Lakers Off-Season Expectations for Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace

Last week I talked about possible off-season plans and expectations for Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. While Bryant and Bynum are expected to be in purple and gold for at least a few more years, these next two players’ futures in Los Angeles are not as concrete. The second part of this three-week series of off-season expectations highlights the possibilities for Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. So, let’s get started.

Pau Gasol:

Since joining the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-2008 season, Pau Gasol has done great things for the team and the organization. Gasol’s presence and contributions helped the Lakers land in the NBA Finals during the first season he was in L.A., and played a major role in the back-to-back championship run in 2009 and 2010.

However, starting in the 2011 playoffs something started to change in Gasol’s performance. This continued this past season and in the 2012 post-season, causing most to believe that Gasol is on his way out of Los Angeles. Whether it is his age, Mike Brown’s position re-assignment or off-court pressures, a trade seems to be on the horizon for Gasol, despite recent comments from Jim Buss.

During his exit interview, Gasol attempted to give a possible explanation for his recent struggles:

I never had to search for offense or for looks in teams I’ve been on. They’ve always been, not given to me, but I always had them because of what I bring to table. So to have to go and search, I have struggled at points, at times with that. But obviously when you have certain players are also very good contributors on the offensive end, you have to make sure combine all those weapons, make them work at their best. And that takes a little bit of time, too … 

I always like to be aggressive and proactive, but I was still trying to adjust to the fact it was different. I wasn’t getting the same things I was getting before. I’m not used to attacking from different positions on the court. Analyzing a little more made me think of it a little more. But I don’t like excuses at all. It’s just analyzing and seeing the fact and understanding why things happen a certain way.”

However, as Brian Kamenetzky of points out:

His shooting percentage was down, mostly because Gasol hoisted more shots from lower percentage areas on the floor (16 feet and beyond). It certainly wasn’t because he lost his touch on the block. Via Synergy, no Laker averaged more points per possession in the post than Gasol’s .968. More positives: Only Dwight Howard and Kevin Love had more double-doubles. Gasoltied for the team lead in offensive rating, and led in win shares. Via 82 Games, the Lakers were4.1 points better offensively with Gasol on the floor, and 4.5 points better defensively — the best margins among L.A.’s Big Three.

Bottom line, anyone believing Gasol wasn’t productive or somehow hurt the Lakers over the course of the season is simply mistaken.”

Something obviously changed in Gasol’s game that altered the Lakers this season. It comes down to synergy and the reality that Gasol’s time with the Lakers has run its course and has come to an end. The chemistry during offensive plays between him and Kobe Bryant just wasn’t as smooth as it used to be, especially in the pick and roll. Gasol’s aggression to get to the basket and to trust himself to make the shot faded away as well. This could have been cause by the hesitation and unfamiliarity of playing on the high-post and becoming a facilitator first.

There is no question that Gasol remains one of the top big men of the NBA. This is something he hopes to prove during the 2012 Olympics in London with the Spanish team. His skills, abilities, and basketball IQ is desired by other teams around the league. Change must happen to the Lakers’ roster this off-season, and Gasol will be number one on the trading block because of the value he offers teams. If and when the Lakers make a move on Gasol, they must ensure that they receive equal value back from that trade.

Next Page: Metta World Peace

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