Pau Gasol: While some may be concerned over the amount of minutes Gasol racked up during this year’s Olympic games, I’m actually encouraged by how dominant and (most importantly) confident he looked while leading Spain to another Silver medal. Gasol looked like a man playing at peace and flourishing within a system where the ball rarely stayed in one player’s hands for longer than 3-4 seconds.
For the record, that was not a veiled shot at Kobe Bryant, rather the reality of life with the Lakers reverting to primarily running isolation basketball during large stretches of last season. In walks Steve Nash, and his penchant for not only finding players in their exact desired scoring position, but also for encouraging a team-mentality of spreading the wealth. Gasol, like MWP, will absolutely benefit from this change in philosophy. With so many weapons on this team, his numbers probably won’t mirror those seasons from earlier in his career, his efficiency likely will.
Dwight Howard: Plenty of speculation is being thrown around about whether or not Howard will return for the start of the season or somewhere near Dec./Jan. Only time will tell on that, but what I can say is I believe Dwight may have his finest statistical year of his career.
Not only will he be playing with (by far) the most talented roster of his career, but he will undoubtedly be rejuvenated by simply being able to remove that dark cloud that has loomed over his head over the last 18 months. Lobs from Nash/Gasol, dump-off passes from Bryant will likely place Howard’s field goal percentage (career 57.7 percent) closer to the 61.2 percent he shot during the 2009-10 season. Did I forget to mention that, if healthy, Howard is one of the greatest defensive centers the league has seen over the last two decades?
The blocks (2.2 per game) don’t tell the half of it with Howard, as he is such an intimidating presence many teams simply avoid testing him. I expect his rebound total (career 13 per game) to increase this season. Call me crazy, but I could actually see him closer to 15 per game this season.
Next Page: The Hall of Fame Backcourt & the Bench