Pau Gasol is one of the best power forwards in the game today. His career averages of 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game are beyond impressive. Gasol is also considered to have the best all-around skills for a 7-footer. There are not many other power forwards who can run a perfect 3-on-2 fast break, find small windows to make a perfect pass through traffic, or shoot with both hands around the basketball. However, numbers and skills do not always justify Gasol’s play.
Gasol recently has been less than stellar for the purple and gold. Although his numbers say otherwise, Laker fans know all too well that in important games Gasol tends to be less effective. He’s timid and shies away from contact when play gets rough. Physical play is Pau’s weakness, thus making him unimportant to the outcome of the game. For example, these past two years in the playoffs, when the physicality of the game intensifies, Gasol has averaged career lows in points and rebounds.
While Pau Gasol was averaging 18 points per game in his first 3.5 seasons with the Lakers, this season his scoring suffered slightly as a result of the emergence of Andrew Bynum. Pau was still able to average 17.4 ppg, 10.4 rebounds, and his Laker best 3.7 assists.
It is safe to say that Pau’s numbers would fall when Andrew Bynum plays like an All-Star. Andrew’s dominance inside is only going to take away touches from Gasol. The better Bynum does, the less Gasol gets the ball. Last season, when Bynum missed 28 games, Gasol was the go to/reliable player in the post for the Lakers. This year, Bynum played a full season for the first time since the 2006-07 season. He only missed the first four games due to a suspension he received for a flagrant foul against JJ Barea in the playoffs the previous season, and sat one game out late in the season for some added rest heading into the playoffs.
Andrew is the first true center the Lakers have had since Shaquille O’Neal, and the second best center in the league. Some may even say Bynum is the best offensively skilled center in the game today. He averaged career bests in both points and rebounds, 18.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg, earning his first All-Star appearance as the Western Conference’s starting center. So it is understandable that Gasol’s numbers would dip. Also, there is only one ball on the court for five players, and to expect a player like Gasol to continue to have big numbers when a guy like Bynum begins to average career numbers and play up to his expectation is unfair.
When compared to other All-Star power forwards, Pau’s stats do not lie. He trailed the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh (18) this season by only 0.6 points, but averaged three more rebounds. Pau averaged more points per game than Kevin Garnett (15.8), Tim Duncan (15.4), Carlos Boozer (15) and had roughly the same as Amar’e Stoudemire (17.5). All these players share the scoring load on their team, although this is just comparing numbers. The difference between Pau and these mentioned power forwards is the style of play. The others are better at playing strong and physical where as Pau is thrown off his game when pushed around. There is a saying that numbers don’t lie, and in most cases that is true. Players can talk, but talk does not support their play, their numbers do. Numbers tell fans, coaches, analysts, and other players how someone is playing. But in the case of Pau Gasol, the numbers can be a bit deceiving. In any given game Pau could have a double-double, but he would frustrate fans because when he was needed the most or when the game was in crunch time, he does not always deliver.
The same topic is constantly being brought up when Lakers power forward Pau Gasol is the topic – his toughness, mentally and physicality. When he first became a Laker, it was his toughness on the court that was in question after Boston roughed him up, but he answered it in the following two years. Now it’s both. For Gasol, 2010-11 was a season to forget, as the eventual NBA World Champions Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers in the second round. This was not the Pau Gasol people remembered. He seemed to be mentally checked out, averaging just 12.5 ppg. What was worse, each game his scoring went down, from 15 in Game 1 to 10 in Game 4. Defenders were able to keep him away from the basket, forcing his shots to be much more difficult. He was unable to get rebounds, and in many ways it was almost like he was not there.
Next Page: Pau’s Playoff Problems