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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at 3:08 pm  |  58 responses

Top 50: Pau Gasol, no. 19

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players for ’12-13.

by Allen Powell II

Two things are true about Pau Gasol, and anyone who disputes them has questionable basketball acumen. First, Pau Gasol is a tad soft, or, as some would say, “finesse.” Second, when properly motivated, Gasol is a beast.

Yes, those two assertions reek of cognitive dissonance. No, they will not be retracted.

NBA history is littered with “finesse” beasts. Some people, many of them Celtics fans, have accused Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of being “finesse.” Dirk Nowitzki has worn the “finesse” label for years, and even his recent ascent to the NBA mountaintop hasn’t completely shaken it. What about Kevin Johnson, or even Kevin Durant? Now consider the popular perception of David Robinson’s career.

There is this idea that if a player is a not a bruiser, if he prefers to shy away from certain types of contact or doesn’t always assert himself physically, he must suffer from a mental weakness. It is a popular conceit among NBA fans and is somewhat justified. Throughout the NBA’s history many have failed to make the most of their playing careers because they lacked the physical and mental toughness required to survive in a League populated by undeniably grown men. Fans are constantly searching for clues about who will be the next player to join that dubious club.

But, that’s where Pau Gasol becomes an interesting case. It’s true that NBA fans have seen him pushed off the block too often. They’ve been frustrated by Gasol’s flailing arms and putrid stat lines. Lakers fans annually bemoan his “finesse” play and have openly lusted for his replacement.

Yet, the most astute Lakers fans realize that the only reason their team has been a perennial contender is because of that lopsided trade that brought Gasol to Hollywood. Gasol’s ability to move in and out of the post, to be a willing and exceptional passer, to defend, and to crash the boards are in short supply in today’s NBA. Honestly, those skills have been in short supply in every era.

And Gasol is a proven commodity. Yes, he tosses out a few clunkers every year, but he has won Championships. Gasol has occupied the upper echelon of his position for years. He’s proven himself in tense moments far more often then he’s failed. While he’s getting older, there is no reason to believe that a steep decline looms.

But, those failures linger. That’s why SLAMonline voters have placed Gasol behind players who haven’t displayed his arsenal of skills, nor shown an ability to perform when the stakes are highest. These lists always prize potential and punish certain track records.

Most fans understand that Gasol was misused by Mike Brown last year, but some still blame him for his failures. While it’s likely that Gasol’s full array of skills will be on display this year with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard as running mates, many fans still doubt his ability to take advantage of the opportunity.

No matter what Gasol accomplishes, he has been branded as “finesse.” It is almost like he sports an embroidered “F” on his authentic jersey, and no matter what other accolades he may obtain, that brand will remain.

There is a certain injustice about Gasol’s position, but (here comes that cognitive dissonance again) there is also fairness. For better or worse, first impressions have always been lasting impressions. Why should the NBA be any different from real life?


Where should Pau Gasol rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3
27 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 5
26 Andre Iguodala Nuggets SG 5
25 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 4
24 Josh Smith Hawks PF 7
23 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 8
22 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
21 Steve Nash Lakers PG 7
20 James Harden Thunder SG 3
19 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 6

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • BRAVO

    yyuupp

  • zogs19994

    The Gasol+Nash combo is more likely than the Dwight+Nash, so he might have a decent year.

  • LakeShow

    He’s such a great offensive player. His passing is going to be on full display this year with Dwight jumping at the rim every time a defender gets lost.

  • RG190

    Pau must have the meanest smile on his face. Let all the attention go to Kobe, Nash, D12…all while Gasol opens up presents under the rim.

  • Sean B

    Lakers fans that hate on Pau are dumb

  • LakeShow

    Agreed.

  • ctk

    Its messed up the second best center n the league has to play PowerForward again…should be ranked higher than ChrisBosh too still a better rebounder/shot blocker…n get more n the paint buckets as the third option

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ^ that doesn’t make sense, considering last season the best Pick and Roll PG in the league was Nash, and the best Pick and Roll big man was Dwight…..
    .
    ^ that does make sense, considering who typed it.

  • LeroyShonuff

    Pau and the Lakers success hangs completely on how Kobe/Eddie Jordan/Steve Nash/Mike Brown uses him. He is the perfect big man for the princeton system,. If he is used right, the Lakers should have the most explosive offense especially half-court in the league. His skill set is amazing. Him and Jamison should be a very good front-court with the mins they will play together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    Enough already, I’m just waiting on you to exclaim how improved Kobe will be this year at 34.

  • LakeShow

    His FG% will be improved.
    His Ball IQ has always improved.
    His athleticism is the same.
    He’s being asked to do less.
    So yeah Kobe will improve.

  • RedDragon10

    Griffin needs to be next. I would rather take a big man with footwork than one who can only dunk.

  • Drig

    Still don’t think CB, Aldridge, Dirk are gonna have better years. Griffin, Love are gonna be at the top since they’re gonna have the most gaudy stats of all of them but I’d take Pau over all of them except a healthy dirk in a heartbeat ( Dirk doesn’t look like he can be healthy though )

  • TR

    Pau’s skills are only matched by a few people. He’s just come up short a the last couple years so perceptions have changed.

  • zogs19994

    NBK AT STANDS FOR

    NEVER
    BEEN
    KISSED

    #PATHETIC

  • Datkid

    Why are you worrying about who’s kissing another man? smh

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    You should trademark that, totally brilliant and original.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    No wonder you’re not a GM. You would take a 32 year old Gasol over a 23 year old Griffin? Have you watched the two play against each other?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    I wouldn’t, that’s not an all encompassing statement. Under your theory Hibbert is better than Howard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    You’re irrational, his FG% will go down with his athleticism. He’s 34 man, you don’t get “better” at that age.

  • nhm

    wat? i believe pau is a top-10 guy. his current team just doesn’t allow it to be shown

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    Yeah and Laker fans who love everyone and everything that comes out of LA are level headed

  • shutup

    Why are you worrying about whos worrying about kissing another man. smh and rotfl and then I smh again

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    i did

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    No sir he won’t. This is a juggernaut of players who all demand the ball and a luke warm bench that is going to need to play inspired every night! THIS IS REALITY TV BASKETBALL !!!
    Burn Holywood Burn

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    SMH at pretty much everything Nbk says. Dude actually believes he’s insightful!

  • Datkid

    lmaooooo

  • Dnton

    But Bynum already left the Lakers =P.

  • Armando

    It bugs me that the likes of Tyreke Evans, Serge Ibaka and Danny Granger makes this list over Luol Deng.

  • http://twitter.com/ecvill11 Edmond Villanueva

    I’d rather have Pau rather than Blake. Just because Pau got bullied by Griff doesn’t mean he is the better player.

  • Max

    Why are you worrying about whos worrying about whos worrying about kissing another man?
    “Worryception”

  • Max

    Why does it seem like you hate on everything?

  • Drig

    Um…….have you watched Rose play vs CP3???? Does that mean if someone says they’d rather take CP3, they aren’t fit to be a GM? Pau’s the more consistent and more complete player. If I want to win right now, I’d take Pau ten times outta 10. If I’m planning for the future, then Griffin. I belong to the former category.

  • Drig

    It’s irrational to think Kobe’s gonna shoot worse than what he did last season. Worst case scenario, he’s gonna shoot a similar % with reduced shot attempts. Best case, his FG% spikes up to around 47% and he puts in more effort on D.

  • Drig

    I just realized that O.O……….

  • zogs19994

    RELAX YO LIPS NIGA
    SMD

  • zogs19994

    LOLOLOL

  • zogs19994

    NO.. YOU RUINED THE JOKE….

  • zogs19994

    #REALSHIT

  • Perry the PlatyPteranodon

    Mind=Blown

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Gilbert/100001749589586 Mike Gilbert

    why do people say being ranked number 5 or 6 is higher on this list and being ranked 19 or 20 is lower….da fuq?

  • RedDragon10

    My theory stated that if Howard can only dunk then I would. But Howard can do a whole variety of skills unlike griffin.

  • LakeShow

    Fo real, i’d take Deng over all them.

  • Datkid

    you’re amazing smh

  • nick

    Your an idiot kid, best respect the nbk

  • shutup

    Dumbass it was my joke first, wtf were you lololol at then?

  • bigA

    But you probably really sucked before.

  • bigA

    Zogs #realidiot

    I don’t really know how those hashtags work but dude you are an idiot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    Um……. yeah, before the Rose injury he was the reigning MVP and his team had the league’s best record. Also, he is 5 years younger than CP3. So if some GM stated that he would rather take CP3 and the owner found out, they would be fired.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    Read your statement 5 times and tell me if that makes sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    If a right hand running hook is “a whole variety of skills” then I stand corrected.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    Lol at you guys man. I hope you dudes are young and I mean under 22 young with these delusions of grandeur. So let me get this straight, a 34 year old 17 year NBA veteran who has logged more minutes than anyone over those 17 years will now shoot 47% from the field when he’s NEVER shot that high of a percentage in the 16 years prior?

    K. Bryant FG% the last 4 years- 2008-2009= 46.7%, 2009-2010= 45.6, 2010-2011= 45.1, 2011-2012= 43%.

    Don’t just be a fan, be real. Shooting guards in their mid 30′s don’t improve FG%’s to career highs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    He would get eaten alive defensively at center. He doesn’t want that role.

  • RedDragon10

    Ur saying Howard can’t play defense? He can’t block shots? I guess there was some other player that won 3 defensive player of the year awards in a row. Are u saying that his agility for his size isn’t a skill? Are you saying that his only move is a right handed running hook?

  • aj1111

    The Lakers spend too much time playing an unimaginative offense that depends on isolation for Kobe Bryant and post up for the bigs. Hopefully this will change with Steve Nash. People are confused by Gasol because posting up is not the best use of his skills. This is partly because his very long legs give him a high center of gravity which makes vulnerable to being rooted out of place by shorter, wider defenders, especially in light of his slender build. However, the Lakers were extremely efficient in the high low post game, and hopefully that will continue.

  • Mike From Spain

    You think you are too clever for us or what?

  • Mike From Spain

    If , and this is a big if, Kobe defers to Nash and selects his shots better, his FG% could go up. It’s not that he’ll be better, there are other ways of raising the FG%.

  • http://twitter.com/ecvill11 Edmond Villanueva

    Well, pass the ball to griff and let him work. Let’s compare that to gasol and let’s see who’s better.

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