The Pau Problem: Is Gasol Good, Bad For Lakers Moving Forward?

Pau Gasol seemed to have the same problem in the 2012 playoffs. He wasn’t battling for position underneath the basket on both the offensive and defensive end, he settled for too many outside shots, and he was hesitant to shoot the ball. The most pivotal play Pau made in the playoffs was in Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the game tied and less than a minute to go, the Lakers set up to run the pick-and-roll with Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Kobe was double teamed and made the correct pass to Gasol for a wide-open 10-foot shot. Except he didn’t take it. Instead, he tried to pass the ball crosscourt to the three-point line to Metta World Peace and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant picked off the pass. Durant came down and hit a three-point shot that ultimately won them the game and the series.

With the Lakers were trailing the Thunder in the series 2-1, a made shot by Gasol would have given the Lakers the lead in the game. Instead of being up and putting the pressure on the Thunder to make a shot and the possibility of the Lakers tying the series up at 2-2, the Lakers went down 3-1 and the series in the following game and a second round knock out two seasons in a row. His confidence was low in the playoffs because he never turns down an open jumper.

With all the negative things said, Pau Gasol is still one of the best power forwards in the game today. His 7-foot frame pieced together with his skills to handle the ball, shoot the ball from the outside and with both his left and right hand from close range makes him extremely difficult to guard. He helped bring the Lakers two NBA titles, including one against Boston. However, the expectations in L.A. are higher than any other NBA city. What you did last year, two years ago, or three years ago does not matter if you do not keep it up, and Pau’s play has taken a small turn for the worse. But Gasol has the skills and smarts to continue to work hard and get the hunger for a championship back.

He can shoot with the best of the power forwards, Garnett, Duncan, Bosh, and Boozer. He does not have the range as Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love, or Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, but out of all those power forwards mentioned, he has the most moves, counter moves, and foot work comparable to that of Tim Duncan. He relies on finesse not power. However, players in the post need to have strength in their arsenal. Gasol needs to play with more power when battling for position and/or driving to the bucket.

Where he exceeds is dribbling, passing, shooting with both hands near the basket, and his IQ. He has a hook shot from five feet that he shoots with both the left and the right hand. That makes him so dangerous because he has no weakness that close to the basket. He is one of the best passing big men, as he is able to scan the court with the ball in his hands and make the right play. He has also been successful leading a fast break. Gasol is so diverse in his skill level that it is a shame he is not as strong mentally. His best quality may be his basketball IQ. He understands the game in and out while also able to read a defense and analyze what they are giving him. Kobe Bryant has even said before that Gasol’s IQ on the court makes him a great player and teammate.

Pau Gasol’s head is his major weakness. When he wants to play, he is unstoppable; he plays hard, physical, and smart. If the Lakers are able to light a fire inside of Gasol, they would be stupid to trade him. The diversity that he has makes him a difficult opponent, but it is his lack of mental toughness that drives Lakers fans crazy. The double threat of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol both being seven feet tall is one of the strengths of the Lakers, and getting rid of one of them for anyone under seven feet would hurt the Lakers’ key attribute. He is a great player and with the right players around him and the right mindset, one of the best.

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