Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 8:00 am  |  61 responses

Pau Gasol Is the MVP of the Lakers

And it’s not even close.

by Eddie Maisonet

Shoutout to Kenny for saying I didn’t have “the huevos” to write this story, but in actuality it’s something that’s needed to be said for years.

We all witnessed the spark of an interesting debate on Saturday night, as the good folks over at TNT raised some eyebrows in the response of the “fans” saying that Kobe Bryant was the NBA Player of the Decade.

By a resounding margin, Kobe was voted No. 1, capturing 54 percent of the vote. This leads me to believe that only Laker Stans voted in this poll. Charles Barkley, who after hearing that the vote skewed heavily to Kobe, said that “the fans don’t know anything” and said that Shaquille O’Neal should be the Player of the Decade. Then all of the other TNT panelists said the exact same thing.

Pretty resounding, isn’t it? The fans vote Kobe the Player of the Decade, yet Shaq won just as many titles as Kobe, Shaq was the preeminent force on those 2000-03 Lakers teams while Kobe was gradually growing in his role as Robin. Shaq leaves forced beyond his will Los Angeles and the Lakers go into the tank as Kobe can only take those teams to the bottom of the playoff bracket.

Enter Pau Gasol.

Hold up Ed, you’re not saying Pau Gasol is as good as Shaquille O’Neal are you?

Of course not.

However, in the first two seasons Gasol joined the team the Lake Show has been to the Finals both times. We forget that the biggest bonuses that having Shaq first, then Gasol later on the squad was tenfold. Having a well-respected big man down low allows Kobe more room to operate on the perimeter. Having a well-respected big man allows Kobe to rest and lets the offensive facilitate through someone else. Having the big man down low takes some of the defensive pressure off of Kobe, especially if someone gets by him.

Sure, Kobe’s more dynamic. He’s going to shoot the game-winners. He’s the poster child for the League. We all know this. If we were talking about the Most Outstanding Player for the Lakers and the NBA, of course Bryant wins this award.

However, the title is “Most Valuable” and from a value perspective it’s extremely tough to say isn’t more valuable. Plus, who’s to say that Gasol doesn’t make players better? Lamar Odom was almost traded roughly 38 times before Pau got there, however Gasol and Odom (and Bynum to a degree) remind some of the Uncles in our family to a Parish/McHale/Walton ’86 Celtics feel of a frontcourt. Other teams in the NBA have strategically reshaped their teams to beat LA, by adding frontcourt depth in particular.

The Lakers are 57-33 all-time when Bryant has been out of the lineup. Parse that down to 82 games, that’s about 52-30? In the 3 full seasons Kobe played without Gasol the Lakers had 34, 45, and 42 wins. In 2010, the Lakers have continued to show that they can win without Kobe. Could they win a title? I don’t think so, but they’d definitely get out of the first round and I truly believe they make a run to the finals. Kobe is an awesome individual player, and truly one of the greatest players of all-time. Yet, he’s been launched into this stratosphere which is somewhat undeserved and we must endure the fact that, “Kobe lead his team back to glory, he’s a true leader” and “He just wants it more than everyone else.” Really? No, the man wants rings and by GM Mitch Kupchak trading swindling with the Grizzles to get Pau, the power shift began in front of our faces.

Gasol’s filling Shaq’s role. One uses finesse, another uses brute force. However, one is generally pretty reserved (Gasol, although he’s also very swarthy and “unshowered” looking) while Shaq wanted the limelight as much as anyone in NBA history. However, they are both the true catalysts of the Lakers’ team and Phil Jackson knows it. He’d never say it though, he’s got to make sure Kobe and the fans know who the “real” MVP truly is.

Eddie Maisonet is a writer of all sports, who’s also a big-time hoops and Oklahoma City Thunder fan (Sooner State stand up!). Keep up with Eddie on SLAMonline as well as his award-winning blog at Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.

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  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    well THIS is going to be interesting…

  • LeoneL

    *Grabs popcorn and getting ready to watch sparks fly*

  • tom

    true but true. the lakers need kobe “killerinstinct” but its worthless without a team that gets them into position.

    great read

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    I’m getting really tired of reading people’s opinions about the Lakers when you can tell by those opinions that they’ve never really followed the team but they’ve watched a lot of SportCenter.

  • http://www.yougotdunkedon.com antone

    Wow, what a way to make your SLAM debut. You definitely have balls to write this. I don’t really agree but then if you look at win shares for last season Gasol was worth 13.9 and Kobe was worth 12.7. The question is whether or not that’s because Kobe makes things easier for him….

  • Yusuf

    Lol u wrote this article to get laker fans mad so u can get hits lol u genius u.. ur pullin a bill simmons

  • LOAF

    i need ESPN…. BADLY

  • lakerfan

    any who watches the lakers know that Odom is the x-factor. Not Pau. Pau has not been the MVP at all in these games without Kobe. Some don’t even watch, all they care about is hey they won without Kobe. Funny, lakers won without Pau when he was out. Kobe was dominating, Bynum was doing his thing and Odom filled here and there. Fact of the matter is, lakers are a good enough team to withstand injury to one of their key players for short stretches.

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  • Callis

    Wow Ed, really?

    The point is true, if you look at it from the standpoint of Shaq was the MVP prior to, then left and Kobe’s teams were mediocre, then Pau came in and they were elite and title contending again. When you break it down it doesn’t seem so untrue, but its still a shocking statement. Good read.

  • http://www.threadsandkicks.com.au Eduardo

    I’m a BIG fan of Kobe, ever since he entered the league but I have to say that this article is true to some extent.

    Yes Kobe has won four titles but look who won the first 3 Finals MVP awards of those titles. Shaq! Then when Kobe tried to dethrone Shaq of the leadership role in the next two seasons of 03 and especially the 04 finals against Detroit the team chemistry and moral crumbled. Players arguing, managers pointing fingers.

    Once Shaq left the team, look at what happened to the team once he left. If Kobe was the true leader of that team he would have taken them straight to the finals once again in the Post Shaq era but instead they lost in the first rounds of the playoffs in the following years.

    It wasn’t until Pau arrived that the ball began to move again because less pressure was on Kobe. Yes he scored 81 points but he also took 46 shots to get there because he had no trust in his team mates. Gasol provided that reliable second scoring option that Kobe needed.

    I agree that Kobe is one of the most gifted and greatest player’s to play the game he just burned a few bridges to get there.

    It would have taken a lot for Phil Jackson to note that Kobe is “Uncoachable” in his autobigraphy book.

    At the moment a lot of Fans are claiming that Kobe is the best because he won four titles? Robert Horry won 7! Does that make him the greatest PF of all time?

    Kobe’s just been really fortunate to have a great supporting cast around him. Take Kobe away from the current Laker team that can still push the best in the West in the playoffs. Take LeBron away from the Cav’s and you’ve got a team that can only compete in the first round.

    KOBE FAN… for all those that will start disagreeing with me.

  • lakerfan

    other facts.. lakers were #1 in the west before the Pau trade that season. They probably couldn’t have gotten to the finals without him though because Bynum was/is inexperienced.

    Pau just helps the lakers have another edge. Lakers don’t win a title without him, but don’t be crazy.

  • riggs

    anybody who have seen what the trade for pau did for the team in whole sees that, if you dont then youre just an idiot.

  • lakerfan

    LOL. Yeah, any other star could have taken a starting lineup that had Smush Parker, Luke Walton and Kwame Brown deep into the playoffs. Please.

    Shaq was NOT innocent to the events in those years. He still burns bridges with all his ex-teams and ex-teammates.

  • lakerfan

    regarding the player of the decade vote, it shouldn’t have been so “resounding”, votes should have been more spread out among Kobe, Duncan and Shaq.. Shaq’s play had dropped off for much of the latter part of the decade, jumping from team to team. If it was 2000-2005, he would have won. It came down to Duncan and Kobe. But, there is nothing “so wrong” about Kobe winning. Only a hater would disagree. He has maintained the superstar level play the most for those TEN years.

  • http://Slamadamonth.com Mvp23100

    Some truthful dialogue for 24 lovers when did he become a basketball god anyway because before pau after shaq lakers wasnt doing nothing i seen lebron take a high school team to the nba finals

  • http://www.threadsandkicks.com.au Eduardo

    Can’t believe Duncan scored so low on the “Player of the Decade”. He’s one of the best PF’s to play the game and he’s been so dominant in his prime with so many accolades to his name. He’s slowed down a bit in recent years but still competes with the best big men in the league.

    I think if he was more extroverted and marketable as a personality he would have definitely received more credit and votes to his name. He just seems so humble and quiet when he plays.

    In the years that he one the MVP and Finals MVP awards his stat line is incredible and one of the most impressive you’ll ever see in a big man player.

  • lakerfan

    High school team? LOL..

    the West has been the most competitive conference for so long. It is hard to get out of the west. LeBron faced the buzzsaw that was the spurs that year.

    He was still great though for that age.

  • http://www.Twitter/notebooknick NotebookNick

    Is Ed really Sandy? Because that would explain this post. Seriously? Pau helps, but he doesn’t make the team go.

  • jumpman3224

    In response to TNT’s player of the decade poll: SLAMonline and ESPN also named Mamba the player of the decade so there must be more to it than the fans not knowing anything. The reason that I think he is most deserving is the number of years he has been a top 3 player in the league. Over the past decade you could make the arguement that Kobe has been one of the top 3 players in the league 8 or 9 out of 10 years. Shaq was the most dominant player of the decade, but his excellence was very front heavy.

  • Yesse

    Now i dunno. I could say Shaq is the player of the decade, atleast the first half of the decade. The thing, that the fans see is Kobe and LeBron. Who is on the most posters through basketball clothing shops? Kobe and LeBron. The fans don’t even know how huge impact Shaq use to have for Lakers or the Heat. All the fans see is how Shaq has been playing this season, but we are talking about the whole decade not the 2 or 3 past seasons. For the dumbest voting part. LeBron got more votes than Shaq or Tim Duncan, which is wrong. Soon they should only let professionals vote. Secondly i think Kobe should have not won with that big of a difference to Shaq or Timmy.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    While I like the content of this piece can I be the first to say that the sites articles have been really lacking. I (and I can only imagine many of the SLAMOnline vets)miss the words of Myles, Russ, Ryan, Cub, Khalid, etc. all. The new crop of writers have a lot of work to do to give this place the proper content SLAM fans have come to expect. And no, not every piece is pourous, but it’s a trend that needs reversing.

  • jumpman3224

    I hate that Kobe gets maligned for winning 3 championships with Shaq and one (so far) with Pau. The truth of the matter is that no great player wins championships alone and that Kobe was a VITAL part of the lakers three peat. Also before Pau he was taking a talentless team to the playoffs (excluding one year) in a brutal West. I wonder how Kobe will be remembered decades after he retires. In current discussions we put so much weight on winning championships, and being “the man” on a team that does. But multiple Hall of Famers who most experts rank in the top 10 (Logo and the Big O) to ever play; only one 1 championship each and weren’t “the man” on the team that did.

  • jumpman3224

    *the one year the Lakers post Shaq didnt make the playoffs, Kobe missed nearly 20 games due to various injuries.

  • Reubman

    Really, Ed ?

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    And to top it all off Pau was very successful in taking the Grizzlies deep into the playoffs so we should realize that he is the MVP of the lakers…oh wait, when Pau had to actually be the MVP on his team he couldn’t even win ONE playoff game. If anything the triangle offense and PJax are the Co-MVPs of the Lakers.

  • kato

    It was hard to get through this article, not only because of the idiotic premises, but because of the numerous errors. Who edited this mess? As a matter of fact, who HIRED you as a writer, in the first place?! Thanks for sharing your unbiased opinion, and your vast NBA knowledge (sarcasm intended).

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Without trading Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, the Lakers get knocked out of the first round by Denver in ’08 and in ’09.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    and in the second round in ’09*

  • Randy Brown

    Cue big balls dance. And this isn’t strictly-related to this article, but it seems everyone has forgotten Gasol’s disappointing performance in the 08 Finals

  • UnRel

    Decade’s Best is Tim Duncan.. shaq held it down in the first half.. but fell off quick after his miami run.. i’m a laker fan.. so it’s even hard to say it’s Timmy.. but he’s never missed a playoffs this decade.. consistency wins over titles.. when they all have multiple rings..

  • UnRel

    and to say Pau is the mvp is just nuts.. yes he’s dope.. and the lakers don’t win without him.. but Pau coming to LA is like what D12 did with ‘sheed.. they are just the missing piece.. right in the middle of the puzzle.. that makes a great team a championship team..

  • http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikebasketball/en_US/signature/moves?player=kobe_bryant&move=3 Jackie Moon

    You lost me at “I truly believe they make a run to the finals”.

  • Justin

    The notion of Pau being the Lakers’ MVP is hilarious at best. Yes, he’s great. The guy can run his position form the post like no other. However, he’s not Kobe’s level in terms of impact on the game.

  • http://www.urbevents.com Lael

    Good read!

  • J-Ro

    Ok I’m not a Kobe fan but I have to say something. It wasn’t just Pau that came in to the Lakers in their finals loss to the celtics. Fisher came back, Lamar didn’t get traded like they said he would, Bynum reached a good level, Ariza also came in, and Pau was just the icing on the cake. I think overall the Lakers just got a really good team.

  • http://myspace.com/rsaenz24 RoG23

    Duncan is WITHOUT QUESTION the player of the decade. 4 titles, 2 mvps, defensive player of the year. I think shaq won 3 titles this decade. Not 100% sure. Sorry, 2001 was my first legit nba year

  • http://myspace.com/rsaenz24 RoG23

    Pau is/has been underrated to the lakers success. Last year, everyone was talkin bout kobe catching Jordan and jackson winnin 10. But gasol is arguably the best post in the game today.

  • hoodsnake

    All things considered it has to go to Duncan.

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Lael must be Eddie’s mother.

  • jumpman3224

    @RoG23 Duncan had 3 titles this decade (his first came in the “asterisk” year 98-99) and both Shaq and Kobe have 4. Just an FYI

  • http://twitter.com/soulonice6 Kenny

    First off, kudos to the brother for writing a post that’s making people think, and engage in great debate and discussion. That’s part of what makes a writer effective. Tell a story, and let the people chop it up. In that respect, Ed succeeded.

    As for him being the MVP, if you look at all the factors mentioned in the article, you have to (at least) give it some credence. The numbers are in your face, and if you’re not a stat-head (I hate stats, personally), then watch the games, and you’ll see the obvious difference from the years post-Shaq, sole-Kobe, and since-Gasol. It’s hard to dispute the claim, entirely. Great read, brother.

  • Buckeye37

    This is EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to tell people about Kobe. You can’t really argue against this, the numbers don’t lie. Kobe will never carry a team on his back; he just can’t do it. You take away Shaq, and the Lakers are average. You bring in another great big man, and they win a championship.

  • MIKE





  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    I think even Kobe haters would take umbrage with this article, specifically the byline.

  • kev

    Can we at least agree on this, it takes a team to win a chamionship. In the modern era of basketball no one player has been able to bring a championship on their own. Robison needed duncan, Jordan needed pippen, shaq needed kobe, kobe needed gasol, shaq needed wade, Hakeem the Dream needed mike to retire lol and clide the glide. I think kobe does get a bit too much of the praise for winning last year and his other 4 rings. Kobe wasnt down on the blocks fighting off Dwight howard, that was gasol. The Nba markets single players as being great but it always takes a team to win.

  • http://zenguuuu max

    you’re right that if you took gasol away in ’08 and ’09 that they wouldn’t make the finals, but if you took kobe away they also wouldn’t make the finals.

  • got Mamba?

    hi Eddie Littlehouse

    i wish Duran will play with Smush Parker, Brian Cook, Kwame Brown and the high IQ, Flat footed Luke. how many wins will they have? 32, 45 or 42? also pay attention to the8 game road trip the Lakers had. Gasol chocked the Clev game, robbed Kobe of a triple double by passing out from under the basket to Shannon and Farmar to miss a 3 when he, Gasol could have dunk the ball and win the game (Toronto). He was MIA against Boston and totally scared against his own brother in the Memphis game. that is yoour MVP? or more like Chocker Emeritus. as much as he is a very skilled player and a great passer, he is totally gutless. that’s why he never won a game in the playoffs before being a Laker. watch some games and stop following the ESPN/NBA meme that put any player along Kobe in highlights just to undermine his game. or to translate to you: to make Le Brick better.

    r u applying for an ESPN job?

    i just wanted to buy my first SLAM magazine. yes, because of the Kobe cover.because of this article, no shopping. also u lost an OKC mini-fan.

    that was a real SLAM for my morning coffee. pathetic.

  • ja

    Hear hear. Can’t agree more, the big man deserves all the credit.

    On individual skills and marketing Kobe is best, on positive impact on the team, flow and getting out the best of everyone, PAU wins, hands down.

  • Permaculture James

    I like the article. I remember telling my buddy that the Pau trade was awesome when it happened. A smart, lean (ie can run), 7 footer that can pass spaces the floor and creates a good team dynamic. I guess that we could have a discussion here about MVP being defined by a player-within-a-team vs a player’s individual abilities.

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Too bad Eddie didn’t have “the huevos” to respond to any of the comments. This is like some Mini-Me Jason Whitlock b.s. Just saying something controversial to get a reaction, with no actual substance.

  • http://www.edthesportsfan.com Ed The Sports Fan

    @Brad: I see you buddy, LOL. No, I honestly do believe that the Lakers could not win a championship without an elite big man. They proved it in years past with Shaq there versus Shaq not being there. Kobe struggled (38, 48, 44 wins respectively) without a legit big…wanted Odom traded, wanted Bynum traded and he wanted to bring in JASON KIDD! No sir, Gasol gets brought in and all of a sudden they’re in the NBA Finals. Took one year to get the chemistry, and in year 2 Gasol’s guarding Dwight Howard with no double team and helps get LA their 4th ring of the decade. Gasol is the MVP of the Lakers, Kobe’s the MOP.

  • asdf

    interesting idea , except the lakers were good before they got gasol . in 2007/08 before the got gasol they were near the top of the west . Bynum has improved dramatically, its not just pau’s arrival that improved the team from a borderline playoff team to champions

  • http://housethatglanvillebuilt.blogspot.com Reverend Paul Revere

    I don’t mean to let the cat out of the bag here, but Ed doesn’t exactly like Kobe very much (sorry Ed). If Pau is more valuable player, how come he could never do anything but have a shit team in Memphis (except once), when those players weren’t all that much worse than Kobe’s?

    Pau is vital to the Lakers, but nowhere near as vital as Kobe.

  • http://housethatglanvillebuilt.blogspot.com Reverend Paul Revere

    I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but Ed is a known Kobe hater (sorry Ed). If Pau is so much more valuable, how come he never had anything but shit teams in Memphis (except once) with players that weren’t that much worse than what Kobe was working with post-Shaq?

    Pau is definitely valuable to the Lakers, but not nearly as valuable as Kobe. You’re crazy.

  • roman

    This is the dumbest article almost read! If Pau is MVP how come he never won it with Memphis. And during the Lakers 3peat kobe wasnt turning into Robin, he was already batman. That is the reason Shaq and him couldnt get along. to alpha males on one team usually doesnt work.

  • http://www.limabedandcoffee.com robert

    Gasol MVP?
    ummmmmm, interesting.

  • Nick

    Oh yeah Pau is the MVP of the Lakers alright. Just don’t put the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, like last night vs the Celtics or like in the loss @ Cleveland. Some MVP, he will pass the ball to you no doubt, get everyone some easier shots, but can he win a ball game for you it it was laid all on his shoulders? Nope. Had his chance to prove it in 2 games this season, choked both times. Kobe may chuck, but he certainly does not choke.

  • therighttoremainsalient

    Everyone knows the player of the decade is Rasheed Wallace.

  • maw

    You want the truth Fakers fans? You can’t handle the truth!!!

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  • http://none CJ

    I’m not really sure what Mr. Eddie Maisonet is yapping about… But I agree with Reverend Paul Revere, before Pau arrived at L.A, they were already having a great season. Pau’s arrival is just a plus.

    By the way, you mentioned that Shaq should be player of the decayed? and not Kobe? Why? do you think Shaq could win all those title with the Lakers if Kobe wasn’t there? Remember Shaq’s early days in the NBA, and he was with Penny. But still there were no rings when he used to be in Orlando Magic? And do you think Shaq could win his 4th title without Wade?

    It was all because he has good shooting guards in his side. Too bad he didn’t get his 5th ring this season when he was with the so-called “King” James.