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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  74 responses

Top 50: Pau Gasol, no. 34

A healthy Gasol looks to return to All-Star form this season.

by Karan Madhok / @hoopistani

We, the people, tend to forget.

We tend to be prisoners of the moment, getting caught up completely in the here and now and completely lose sight of the past in favor of the present. And in the new age of instant gratification, everything from our Twitter timelines to the most recently updated unsolicited opinions from the comments’ sections reminds us that everything that happens in the present is far more valuable and important than whatever has happened in the recent past.

And the recent past hasn’t exactly been flattering to this member of the SLAM Top 50.

Our opinions of Pau Gasol—one of the greatest big men of the past 10 years—have been masked by his horrible and unfortunate ‘12-13 season. Paired next to Dwight Howard, Gasol finished the season with career lows in points (13.7 ppg), field-goal percentage (.466), and his Lakers’ career low in rebounds (8.6). Tendinitis in both knees, a concussion, and a tear to the plantar fascia of his right foot accumulated to hold the Spaniard to a career-low 49 games during the season.

Once considered among the best players in the League (Gasol peaked at 10th in the SLAM Top 50 back in 2010 and has never been out of the top 20, until now), Pau isn’t even the best ‘Gasol’ in the League any more. His younger, tougher, grizzlier brother Marc is currently the League’s darling and reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Pau, meanwhile, has diminished in the public’s eye, going from ‘Dominant Big Man’ to ‘Marc’s Older Brother’ in a matter of years.

But don’t let those years fool you into believing that the Older Gasol is going to fade away any time soon. Don’t let his ill-fated partnership with Howard last season mask the fact that Gasol is still perhaps the most technically gifted big man in the League, an efficient and effective offensive combination of footwork, finesse, upper body strength, soft hands, and the increasingly rare ability to dominate the post facing or backing away from the basket.

We, the people, have forgotten how Gasol’s arrival sparked the Lakers (who were stuck in mid-table purgatory before him) to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two Championships. We have forgotten that he was named an All Star—his fourth appearance—and to the All-NBA Second-Team just two years ago. We have let from our minds the image of Gasol dominating the American frontline in the 2012 Olympics to finish with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the gold medal game and bringing the Spanish squad as close as anyone has been in recent years to upsetting Team USA.

Now at 33, Gasol is surely far removed from his prime years, but the road ahead promises to be better than the forgettable season that he has just left behind. In losing Howard, the Lakers have been forced to ally their faith in Gasol, and in a season that offers mostly days of darkness for the Laker faithful, Gasol’s form could be a welcome ray of hope.

With Howard manning the middle, Gasol never full settled in the power forward position, as the perimeter-oriented Mike D’Antoni offense attempted (and failed) to turn him into a jump-shooter. When the two big men shared the floor, Gasol averaged .92 PPP (points per possession) on 46.1 percent shooting from the field. In his 707 minutes without Howard, however, those numbers improved to 1.07 PPP on 47.8 percent shooting. His rebounding rate spiked in Howard’s absence, too (via ESPNLosAngeles.com). As a center last season, Gasol posted an impressive PER of 22, in compared to a mere PER of 15.4 while playing power forward (via SportsMedia 101). His best years as a Laker have always come in the center position. In the regular absences of Andrew Bynum, the Lakers’ most successful offenses involved Gasol as center with Lamar Odom shifting to power forward. In the coming season, Gasol will share the space in the middle with Chris Kaman, a natural center but one who has the ability to stretch the floor and give Gasol his comfort space in the middle.

Last season was a tragicomedy of Hollywood proportions for the Lakers, and Gasol’s fortunes were synchronous with the fortunes of the team. He was cursed with injuries, was forced to play out of position in D’Antoni’s offense and failed to mesh with the new point guard, Steve Nash, on his squad. But if we are hell-bent on being true prisoners of the moment, even the failures of ’12-13 are the distant past.

We, the people, can start thinking about the present now. We can remember the last time we actually watched Gasol play: in the final month of the last season, Gasol posted averages of 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, leading the Lakers to win seven of their last eight games and to a spot in the playoffs. Bryant’s end-of-season injury unceremoniously ended all chances of a Laker revival in the post-season, but Gasol had given a glimpse of his return to form.

And then there’s the near future. A future where Howard is gone from Laker-land, where Bryant’s timetable to return from the Achilles injury is unclear, where Nash is a few more months closer to touching 40, and where the other options include names like Kaman, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar. But Gasol—who chose to skip out on Spain’s bronze-medal performance at the EuroBasket championship—is expected to be at 100 percent health at the start of the Lakers’ training camp and is expected to keep the franchise afloat for the upcoming season.

Minutes after Howard announced that he would be taking his talents to Houston, Bryant posted a picture on Instagram that assured the world that he was still unaffected by our collective amnesia. It was a picture of him and Gasol together, with “#Vamos” as a rally cry for the road ahead.

And as we all look at the road ahead, we, the people, the fans, can expect to start remembering again. Remembering the joys of watching one of smoothest big men in the League at work. And remembering that the past can still be relevant in the future.


Where should Pau Gasol rank in the SLAM Top 50?

Loading ... Loading ...
SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Hum

    FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Junior Taylor

    Why is everyone so certain that Pau will bounce back and go back to looking like 2009/10 Gasol when D’Antoni’s offense consists of nothing but PnR basketball? Pau is at his very best on the low block dating all the way back to his Memphis days. Now, I’m not saying that he can’t excel playing PnR ball with Nash but I’m not part of the crowd that thinks Gasol is going to regain his form this season.

  • spit hot fiyah

    totally agree, it will depend a lot on how d’antoni uses him.

    also blaming his numbers on playing power forward backfires when he played his best basketball next to bynum. it’s all about how he is used in the offense. he has one of the highest basketball IQ i have seen, i don’t think the problem is who he plays next to, more so how he is asked to play next to him.

  • LLC#12

    I have high hopes for Gasol this season, whilst Kobe’s out, (and even when he’s back) Pau should get a LOT more touches this season than he did last season.

  • Drig

    Should be MUCH HIGHER.

  • Caboose

    Sh*t, Pau was at 19 last season? Good call on that one.

  • Caboose

    Oh yeah?

  • spit hot fiyah

    a lot of people expected the lakers to go to the finals so good call on that one too

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    im shocked paul millsap isn’t top 50

  • Caboose

    Gotta agree with that. I mean, the stats are fresh for the picking in ATL right now.

  • shockexchange

    Pau needs to barge into D’Antoni’s office and exclaim, “You wanna win? You wanna keep Rambis, Phil, et. al. from taking your job? Then let me cook.”

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    and atleast andre drummond or josh smith need to be top 50 too

    i think slam purposely puts not good rankings so people will converse in the comments??? i have no evidence to support my claim.

  • Drig

    Considering that he’s gonna play in the center, be the de-facto #1 option till Kobe comes back, is in his contract year, has finally had a summer full of rest when he’s healthy for the first time since ’07 and has been guaranteed that he won’t be traded……..yes.

    He’s gonna have some defensive struggles but judging from what we’ve seen from this list so far, SLAM doesn’t penalize players too much for that.

  • LakeShow

    Pau could be anywhere from #1 to #7 next season.

    Hate all you want, but Gasol is as good as he wants and his body allows him to be.

    Expect 18 – 10 – 4 – 1.5 on 50-55% fg’s from him next season.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    nick young only one going to have breakout for lakers

    franchise sg to replace kobe—- cook it

  • LakeShow

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • LakeShow

    I don’t understand why people don’t get all this…

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    man that sarcasm is oozing from my screen. thelakeshow should be turned to the droughtshow only for next 2 yrs. lakers should tank and ge tlottery icks for next to drafts

  • Caboose

    I understand that he’ll definitely get more touches, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume he’ll regain the form he had from 4 years ago. Pau is 33; he’s at that age. Is an improvement over last year expected? Of course. Will he ever put up 20-10 again? No, I don’t think so. 1st option or not, the Lakers’ offense isn’t tailored to Pau.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Could be higher. Could be lower.

  • LakeShow

    Okay poor mans shock exchange.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    lol i don’t agree with concept of tolerance. be honest and ill respect it. But provide evidence to your claims.

  • LakeShow

    None of Pau’s skills are waning with age…

    He is built on skill not athleticism and speed.

    He could easily re-gain to 2008 form.

  • Caboose

    Well if Pau is #7 at PF…

    Aldridge
    Love
    Griffin
    Dirk
    Horford
    Randolph
    Smith

    If Horford is listed at Center (likely), then Smith is still gonna be on this list.

  • LakeShow

    WTF are you talking about…
    Go away, i’m already bored.

  • Caboose

    Pau isn’t Tim Duncan. Losing athleticism will take a toll. Granted, it’s much less than your average player, but I don’t see him winding back the clock to when he was 27.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    you claim im a poor mans shock exchange. back up up your claim.

    I apologize if i offended you.

    Look up youtube.edu and find some free classes to occupy yourself

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    occupy your time with yoututbe edu

  • i_ball

    it depends on D’Antoni

  • LakeShow

    It has nothing to do with age.

    He was injured last year, not debilitated by old-ness. 33 isn’t even that old and he just turned that digit 2-3 months ago.

    He is set up to have a very good, possible All-Star year.

    He’s closer to Tim Duncan than Amare Staudamire.

  • Caboose

    That is very possible.

    Things working for Pau:
    -Game not built on athleticism
    -Healthy for the first time in a while
    -Likely 1st option for long stretch
    -Still skilled as hell
    -Long summer of rest

    Things working against Pau:
    -D’Antoni’s offense sucks for him
    -He has aged out of his prime
    -Kobe will eventually be back
    -Not used to playing heavy minutes
    -Still sucks on defense (doesn’t matter for SLAM ranking)

    So my prediction is around 17-8-4 on about 50% shooting. Which is good right where he is right now.

  • LakeShow

    No.

    You can “educate” yourself with your little youtube education and probably TIME, NEWSWEEK, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, National Geographic, Popular Science…

    Meanwhile, I actually have a thirst for truth, so i’ll inform myself with truth.

    Thank you, good bye.

  • EJ

    In terms of skill he’s definitely better than 34.

  • Drig

    With all the national team commitments, injuries, botched trades and being forced to take hits for the sake of the team, he wore down.

    It wasn’t too long ago when Pau was simply unstoppable when playing for Spain. Since he will be playing in the same position and the team will mostly atleast get the ball to him once before running plays, he’ll have a greater chance to impact the game from the post like he does for Spain. The most shining example being USA vs Spain game.

    Plus, Pau’s game was NEVER dependent on athleticism. His game is like PP’s TBH.

    The only issue I can see here is his stamina and the lack of bulk.

    Plus, how many PFs above him can put up 20-10 exactly????

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    with Truth of what? basketball lol how do you define truth with that?

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    wait bro do you go to skepticon convention are you one of those truthers who follows richard carrier

  • Drig

    Brown getting fired + Pau’s injuries + Him being forced to give up most of the control to Dwight + Operating in his less favorable positions on the court happened.

  • GexXx
  • Drig

    Pau-Kobe PnR 2008-2010 was the most productive Lakers possession by far. There was a post on forumblueandgold that highlighted that and criticized the Lakers running set plays for a corner 3 by Fisher or SF which yeilded the least points per possession, even less than a Kobe iso.

    Pau’s a very very good PnR player.

  • LakeShow

    I think D’Antoni’s offense sucked for him while being next to Dwight.

    Dwight doesn’t have a mid range (and extended) jumper like Kaman, Hill, Shawne Williams have. That alone changes dynamics quite a bit.

    What does fit nicely, is Pau’s Passing in D’Antoni’s offense.

    Look for Pau to easily have over 4apg.

    I don’t see why Pau’s rebounding would regress. He put up 8.6 in 33 mins last season playing next to Dwight Howard (obviously the L’s best rebounder) so I expect at least 10.0 boards.

    What does Kobe coming back have to do with Pau not doing so well? He had his best seasons playing next to him… KB takes ton’s of pressure off of him.

    He IS used to playing heavy mins. He averaged 37.0 mins per game for 4 consecutive seasons.

    No he doesn’t suck on D. He is average or slightly above average.

    He is putting up at least 17-10-4 on 50% imo.

  • UnsolicitedAdvisor

    I’ll give you some honesty you f*cking disgrace. You sound like a drunk person trying to have a serious conversation. You’re embarrassing yourself.

    The next time you’re about to speak, think to yourself, “is this something that former President Jimmy Carter would condone?” If the answer is no, then you know you know you’re astray. Get a haircut, then get a job, then go buy yourself some new clothes, and then go f*ck yourself because you’d still not amount to anything.

    Respect it.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Easy easy. I don’t understand how a drunkard speaks. But relax its a public speaking forum.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Smith might be listed as a SF…..Millsap still could be on this list.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe
  • UnsolicitedAdvisor

    That does actually sound like something former President Jimmy Carter would say in response to my former post…good job fella.

  • i_ball

    Well D Rose was like 25th or somewhere around that spot… And well even John Lucas 3 and the slam favorite Barginiani had better season

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Well he is one of the greatest diplomats.

  • Nick Holden

    I think they have Smith at SF tough. Still 6 small forwards left:

    LeBron
    KD
    Melo
    George
    Igoudala
    (Smith)

  • danpowers

    i was about to write a whole paragraph just to say the same lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    haha i like this guy ^

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    lol throw me an assist

  • LakeShow

    lol

  • Dundler

    My take on Pau (because I know you’re all dieing to hear it)
    This guy is one of the more un-talked-about players of the past decade. For a good stretch he was unbelievably good. Not just skills-wise, but consider that he goes to playing with Kobe (I don’t think we need reminding how much Kobe rode him) after never having been anything than first option before. Had the pressure of LA riding on him, and after the 08 Finals had everyone going on about him being soft (which has always been complete rubbish). Somehow he keeps his composure through all this and actually improves for the 2-championship runs. Never mind talking about him being in weekly trade talks for going on three years and essentially never bitching about it.

    Last year was tragic in all ways, D’Antoni completely misused him and admitted it. There was drama and discord at every turn, no wonder Pau stunk it up, without mentioning his injuries. For anyone who’s ever had plantar fascitis, they know how painful it is, tearing it must be unbelievable.

    His prime years are definitely gone, of course. He won’t be in 2010 form, but there’s no reason not to expect him to take a big leap forward from last year. As others have already mentioned, he’s healthy, he’s actually had rest for probably the first summer in his career, he’s gunna be the first option…I look forward to seeing him enjoy being a Laker again.

    If you’ve eve watched his mastery for the Spanish national team (his performance against the US isn’t talked about enough) and his play in the NBA, on the biggest stages has been remarkable. His skills, IQ, and willingness to do the best for the team simply aren’t talked about enough.

    Easily for me, probably in my top five personal favourites of this era

  • LakeShow

    He averaged 17-11-7 over the last 10ish games.

    Few in the L can put together stretches like that.

  • Dundler

    Yeah I forgot to even mention that stretch he put together. Even in that disaster of a season. Such a weapon

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Couldn’t have said that any better.

  • Qing Zhang

    The media and Lakers hating fans are more than just prisoners of the moment, they have selective memories, there was never a legit argument, people just want to talk trash, including the media.

  • 3Chainz

    LMAO

  • Pitdog

    Get him back on the block!

  • CLJenda

    Have we forgotten how Kevin Garnett makes him look like a little girl every time they meet? Have we forgotten how everybody, including his own family thinks Pau is soft and he needs to put on the “big boy pants”?
    Nope.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    A drop off from 19th to 34th is a little too steep in my mind… what do you think? If the LAL faithful are to expect a return to form for the team as a whole surely we would be expecting a “top 6″ Centre REVIVAL….???
    Dwight
    Hibbert
    M. Gasol
    B. Lopez
    J. Noah
    P. Gasol
    “that Orlando Magic guy”
    “that T Wolves Guy”
    Greg Monroe
    A. Horford
    A. Jefferson
    T. Duncan
    A. Bogut
    D. Cousins……
    I started in order and then just lost the plot….
    I think if Gasol is going to return to form, is going to get that Centre position back as his mainstay position on court he is arguably as good as his brother again. IE – Top 6th Centre in the league material….

  • Stepfan Raiford

    I think its safe to say that D’Antoni has sabotaged the tail end of his career. This great player doesn’t deserve that.

  • Mike From Spain

    I guess winning a finals series is what qualifies as ‘looking like a little girl’ for you. Do you have the quote, or know the Gasols, to support that their own family thinks Pau is soft? In any case, I’ll take Pau’s softness over, let’s say, Amare, Carlos Boozer, or even Dwight Howard’s grit.

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  • LakeShow

    2009-2010 Finals

    Pau Gasol:19-11-4-3 on 50% fg’s

    Garnett: 15 – 5.5 – 3 – 1.3 on 51% fg’s

    F*cking idiot.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I get it…. but I DO have an avatar featuring a Lakers player so I cant really comment objectively…
    I can say I’m very happy to be a lakers fan coming into this season and very happy Dwight is elsewhere….or “rent a centre”… I got that SE bug….

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