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Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 2:50 pm  |  63 responses

Top 50: Pau Gasol, no. 13

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25

Poor Pau Gasol. How quickly people forget.

Not long ago the silky Spaniard was on top of the world. The Los Angeles Lakers’ and Kobe Bryant’s savior in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals victory over the villainous Boston Celtics, Pau had officially overcome his soft Euro label by manhandling Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins throughout that series. He was no longer the talented but flimsy post player who couldn’t handle a shove in the back without acting like he was nailed by a sniper. He was a man and one that was unquestionably among the NBA’s elite players.

That was until Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Brendan Haywood happened to Gasol. For whatever reason (post-breakup depression, Kobe drama, shock that his once-pudgy little brother was dominating him stat wise in the playoffs, ill-timed slump, sudden evaporation of confidence), old Pau showed up for the Western Conference Semi-Finals last season.

You could actually make a sound argument that the version of Pau Gasol we witnessed against the eventual NBA champions last April was much worse than weak, whiny Pau. We caught a glimpse (and hopefully we never see it again) of defeated Pau. And that is a shame.

Gasol’s numbers last season were more or less identical to those from his watershed 2009-2010 campaign. Points per game were up to 18.8 from 18.3 and rebounds per contest were down to 10.2 from 11.3, but overall, during the regular season the NBA All-Star was his reliable self (reliable being the key word: after struggling with injures during his “good” year, Pau did not miss a single game last season).

But of course no one, especially spoiled Lakers fans (this guy included), honestly cares about regular season production. Members of the Association who have earned their spot in the pantheon of NBA elites (which Pau certainly has done: multiple All-Star games, two-time NBA champion absolutely qualifies) are judged, fairly or not, by playoff performance. Unfortunately for the 11 year veteran, the most recent sample always sticks which is why our image of Pau Gasol heading into the summer, into the lockout, and into what should be the season is so horrendous.

That is why I am pleasantly surprised Pau was ranked 13th in SLAMonline’s ranking of the NBA’s Top 50 players. I don’t think Pau deserves to be punished too severely for a series that obviously snowballed quickly on him.

Let me be clear. Pau was bad. I mean, unspeakably bad in those five games. Not just on offense, where he couldn’t get deep position most possessions, settled for mediocre position and awkward fadeaways during others, and looked completely lost no matter what was going on.

On defense, Dirk Nowitzki burned Pau to a crisp. Not that that’s a crime (Dirk made every breed of defender thrown at him look silly during his mesmerizing postseason run), but after finally developing the killer instinct and physicality that was missing from his game for so long, Pau gave Dirk absolutely no resistance.

Like asking which came first between the chicken and the egg, I’m not sure whether Pau’s defensive ineptitude fed his offensive struggles or if it was the other way around. But in either scenario, Pau’s real issue vs the Mavs was trying to play championship-caliber basketball with his brain wound tighter than a drum.

The cure for that would be a long summer of rest and distance from the game. Though I’m sure he won’t ever forget his performance in last season’s playoffs, I fully expect Pau to use that experience to make him a more motivated and dangerous basketball player. He’s too good and too smart of an athlete not to.

Whenever the season actually begins (at this rate after Christmas), New Lakers coach Mike Brown has plans of implementing a similar offense in Los Angeles to the one the Spurs ran while he was an assistant in San Antonio with Tim Duncan and David Robinson manning each block. With Andrew Bynum serving as the “Admiral” to Pau’s Duncan in a scheme that may accentuate each player’s skills better than the Triangle ever did, we could be in store for Gasol’s best season yet.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4
13 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 3

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Sorry but PGasol is better than Amare. Despite his struggles vs the Mavs, I rather have him as my 4 than Amare because of his rebounding, post skills, underrated passing ability and willingness to put in effort at the defensive end.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    And Amar’e is the 2nd best PF in the NBA lady’s and gentleman.

  • roc

    This guy is softer than buttermilk biscuits

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I have no problem with Amare higher than Pau. 25, 8, 3, 2, 1 is a nice stat line. Yeah, stats aren’t everything and I know defense is important and Amare is bad, but he’s not Kevin Love horrendous. He’s an elite scorer. But he better be the next player on this list.

  • ctkennedy

    i would of had him alittle higher ..no problem with Amare bein ahead of him

  • ctkennedy

    u CANT go to the finals 3straight yrs as the main big man …while winnin 2titles ….n be soft

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Caboose, he is Kevin Love horrendous. Just in a slightly different way. His BPG really throws a veil over how horrid he is defensively. Kevin Love never gave up 31 and 31, or 42 & 17 to a Rookie. Amar’e did. And don’t try and blame it on the Knicks, Love plays for the Timberwolves.

  • MUBWAR

    2 rings says that Pau ain’t soft. That has been dealt with here on slam a little while ago.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Amare is a terrible rebounder and even worse as a defender, even a guy (Dirk) that has little athletic ability to speak of is a better defender than him. Do the lakers win 2chips in a row with Amare at the 4 instead of PGasol? No.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca niQ

    I’m going to say Russell Westbrook is next cause I don’t see him going that high!

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    The only areas Amare is better than Gasol is in scoring/mid-range, that’s it. So how does being superior in 2 out of 6 aspects of the game make you the better player?

  • roc

    Wow Pau dominated an over the hill KG in the finals and that proved he wasn’t soft? He tanked in the playoffs this year because of a supposed breakup and that isn’t soft to you? You’re from Spain dammit go home during the off season and come up with a badder chick

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    nbk, I know his stats are inflated and he’s a horrible 1 on 1 defender but those blocks come from help defense. He at least helps protect the paint a little bit. Love prefers to let a layup go and box his man out instead. And JT, it’s just opinion at this point. If you need scoring, you take Amare. If you want a contender to get over the hump, you take Pau. It’s like Rondo vs Westbrook (kinda sorta).

  • Shem

    This Westbrook ranking is crazy, dude wouldn’t last without a superstar in front of him.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Wow.
    Amare is not the second best PF in the L.
    WTF?

  • roc

    How do we know if Amare switched places with Pau that the Lakers wouldn’t win 2 chips? In fact Amare may be a better compliment to Kobe because of Amare’s midrange game would allow kobe to play more in the post as well as Artest & Bynum. At times the Lakers offense gets bogged down due to everyone attempting to post

  • T-Money

    you CAN be soft and win titles. it’s no mutually exclusive. pau is soft with 2 rings. if miami wins, bosh will be a soft champion.

  • http://ZOGS.COM ZOGS

    Why do people like this guy sooooooo much????
    L.A is my team, and i honestly DONT SEE IT!!!
    18 and 10, and if you ask him to change a doller he’d do it in pennys…

  • MUBWAR

    nowadays most ball fans just like the flash of the game. guys like Rose and griffin. Pau post game is terrific, foot work is outta this word. Good FT shooter as well as mid range and double treat every single night on the floor with 2 blocks. come onnnnnn

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Guys like Rose and Griffin are a lot more than just “flash”.
    DeMar DeRozan, now that’s a kid that’s all flash.
    Ha ha couldn’t help myself.
    But it’s true.

  • http://www.Jcolemusic.com Showtime

    thier is no no way in hell Amare is suppose to be this high?? he reach his ceiling. he not the 2nd best Pf.. he should be 8 spots back. Slam wTF..This suppose to be a projection right, he night get those touches anymore because of Mello and he not got to play no better D-fence so what up..

  • http://www.Jcolemusic.com Showtime

    grammar correction he not gettin those touches, & he won’t play no D

  • JoeMaMa

    @Enigmatic: Demar Derozan has a reliable mid range jumper and a good nose for the basket. His highlights are dunks, but many of his baskets are solid: hesitation pull ups, catch and shoots, etc. “All flash” would be Nate Robinson, or Gerald Green in his day.

  • roc

    Rose just led a team to the ECF and the best record in the league and that’s all flash? Griffins ceiling is so much higher than Gasols its insane.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    JoeMaMa – I know.
    I’m just giving MUBWAR a hard time.
    Cats on here (ZOGS) talking about he’s better than Paul Pierce already.
    Hell no.

  • ripslam

    Amar’e and Westbrook – way overrated on this list.

  • rfennekohl

    hate to rub it in (not really)
    but it were only four games!

    Amare looks tough but doesn’t play that way on defense,
    Pau doens’t look tough but is a physikal player, just look at the last european championship and remember 2008

  • Dagger

    Amare is absolutely not better than Aldridge, Bosh or Griffin, let alone Gasol. On offence Amare’s a beast, no question, but he’s an inept passer, a mediocre rebounder and, let’s face it, maybe the worst defensive big man in today’s game. What’s worse: his pathetic defence isn’t a result of some innate lack of athleticism, but rather pure lack of effort. His position in these rankings derives from his statistics, which are pretty awesome on the surface. But when you look at the total picture his ranking above real two-way players is an insult to what basketball is supposed to be.

  • DukeFromDeep

    F**K any Laker on here… Gasol is soft as s**t. Marc is way better.

  • Shifty

    @Enigmatic, big Lols! me being a celtics fan I hate pau gasol, dude is still weak as hell. Every time I see him he reminds me of general Akbar from star wars, dude is one ugly soft mofo. And he had a terrible postseason. Also cannot believe Westbrook is rated this high, worst top 50 ever, good for banter but that’s about it.

  • MUBWAR

    Marc needs a pull up jumper first

  • stayweird38

    Ha marc gasol is way better than soft boy pau.. and AMARE is good but westbrook sucks!

  • Blue

    next 3 players on the list (no paticular order) amare, westbrook and deron williams

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Marc is better than a 4time all-star, ’01 ROY and 2-time Champ? Sure…..and Iraq had weapons of mass-destruction.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    And Richard Nixon was an honest man.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    And Wesley Snipes pays his taxes

  • http://google J-Ro

    And Tupac is still alive?? lol

  • http://members.cox.net/pilight pilight

    Pau Gasol is gay. The Lakers are gay. The NBA is gay. The WNBA is real basketball.

  • http://bedotwater.bandcamp.com BE.water

    And OJ Didnt do it.

  • http://shinefluid@aol.com yada

    amre was carrying the knicks b4 melo got there. so id put him in front of gasol. u cant knock westbrook for playing with a superstar when gasol plays with not only a superstar but perrenial championship team. not to mention phil will be gone next year

  • dahon

    ROY and never fouls out of a game. he plays with very high IQ, offensively and defensively. last finals was the end of the triangle offense era, trade kobe now while still marketable. rebuild on the twin towers. trade odom and metta too.

  • DJ MBENGA

    im a knicks fan but disagree that Amar’e is above Pau. STAT usually gets beat up by Pau when these two play against each other

  • http://Www.fiba.com Darksaber

    WhinyPau!
    Wrong time to revert to old form, Pau (but thank you so much. Mavs would have been in a knife fight if early season Pau had shown up in the 1st round)
    But his flopping and screaming aside, this guy is a fantastic player; when his confidence is high. This past Eurobasket tournament proved that, and Spain adding Ibaka just made them the most dangerous frontcourt in international play.
    Can’t wait to see who the US will send to battle them in London ’12 cause Dwight, Bosh and Boozer won’t cut it this time.

  • http://Www.fiba.com Darksaber

    Quick hilarious sidenote: between Lamar getting kneed in the nuts as Metta World Class attention whore tried to rip JJ’s head off late in a game, Phil slapping Pau’s chest multiple times to ‘motivate’ him and Pau’s girl allegedly listening to Vanessa’s advice and leaving him (now that’s the woman u take relationship advice from, the one who got humiliated worldwide but stayed anyway, 4 million dollar apology ring and all…), the Lakers sure brought the comedy in Round one.
    W.o.w.

  • JD

    cut out the rings – and Aldridge is better than both Gasol -_-

  • http://www.slamonline.com spit hot fiyah

    @jtaylor we found yellow cake

  • http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com omphalos

    So long as Amare is ahead of Westbrook I’m happy. Russ is good and all, but as the 1st option Amare was single-handedly making the Knicks relevant before the Melo trade.

  • EJ

    Honestly, people are way too critical about Gasol. I have been guilty of that myself, but look at what he has done. LA really sucked before he arrived, and he got them right back to the finals. Now he’s only improved every year in LA, won 2 rings, and you rank Amare and Westbrook over him? Ridiculous.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Is Amare really better than ZBo, LA and Pau?

  • http://www.slamonline.com UNFROZEN CAVEMAN LAWYER

    HOT FIYAH, ‘DONT DROP THIS SHTT HERE!! YELLOW CAKE BITCCES!’

  • http://www.slamonline.com Slick Ric

    Wait a minute, OJ was guilty? Its nothing to believe in any more. smh

  • marc

    Wait did dahon just say trade kobe? really? thats a smart idea

  • http://stapledesign.com Spaceship Jay

    Perhaps Slam is comparing Pau’s accomplishments with Amare according to what Pau does individually.. and even that’s a super S T R E T C H of an explanation. Amare plays no D, Pau plays no D. Do either of them rebound much? Amare will dunk on someone; that’s all I can think of.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    whoever said the mavericks were lucky early regular season pau didn’t show up that series with the mavericks was right… early regular season pau would’ve eaten them alive. and we’d have gotten that lakers vs heat finals…. i actually have no problem with pau this high… amare on the other hand smmfh

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Pau plays a lot more defense then Amar’e. An uncomparable amount more. And Pau is a much better rebounder, he just plays with Bynum & Odom, kinda hard to average 12 rebounds with those two, but he still managed 10, which is more then Amar’e has ever averaged.

  • EJ

    Pau plays D and rebounds. He actually knows he’s a big man, that’s why he has improved on those areas. Amare probably thinks he’s a shooting guard.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Datkid you gotta tweet more then anyone I follow. you crazy on their slamily

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.l.brewer3 BlackPhantom

    Amare isn’t better than Pau *sigh* whatever you floats your boat, SLAM

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    I think this is a bit too high for Pau…

  • dahon

    @marc, hes too old. better trade him now

  • DukeFromDeep

    WESTERBOOK IS OVERRATED!!!

  • default

    He didn’t just struggle against the Mavs, he struggled against the Hornets as well. And what 5 games? The Lakers played 10 games, within which he had 0 games scoring above 20 points(in fact in no games he score more than 17 points, never reached his regular season avg), 3 games above 10 rebounds(never reached 12 boards as well, so all lower than reg. avg.). I wouldn’t say these were “unspeakably bad” but it’s … it’s not him. We all know that. But you have to take all these in while evaluating how good a player he is. It was indeed him on the court, whether he was performing at his or an amateur’s level. So my point is, after 2011 playoffs he does not deserve a 13th ranking, while without the playoffs he could’ve been higher than this, as this playoff performance is just horrible.

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