Pau Gasol's reputation among the loudest NBA fans changes like the weather. A daily tracking poll would look like a heartbeat monitor. And if that were the case, this thing would have crashed in the NBA Finals, where Gasol got pounded off the boards and the block by Kevin Garnett and friends.
But don't get tangled: Gasol's a key player, one of the most adept power forwards in the league at scoring nattily and moving the ball.
Gasol's almost, to me, a poor man's Yao Ming: he scores efficiently, passes the ball well, rebounds worse than you'd think, and doesn't block as many shots as he could. Yao's defensive weakness comes from his lack of mobility; Gasol is limited by his frame, which looks like an aversion to contact on the big-screen. That's not totally right: Pau's a passionate player who, like any other NBA star, doesn't like to get punked. He'll fight back. Whether anyone notices -- including the guy he fights back against -- that's a different story.
Gasol seemed to settle into a nice role in L.A. upon arrival, scoring less than he'd been accustomed to, but moving the ball and immersing himself into the part of ball-movin' big man, a character he'd played in Memphis' better days. That role, of course, expects alteration as Andrew Bynum returns, bumping Pau down a weight class and likely relieving some of Gasol's less handsome responsibilities (defending the opposing Shaqs and Odens and Kamans, hit the glass hard).
That's one of the great things about Gasol: he's adaptable. He had a spate of different callings in Memphis, depending on the quality of the team around him. Always a primary scorer, though varying offenses Pau was able to slip into different modes: facilitator, post pounder, shooter. Of course, when he had no help (the last season-and-a-half there), he had to be all those things. He can't handle that. In L.A., he doesn't have to. This job's perfectly in his wheelhouse.
Is he an All-Star? You'd assume the Lakers will rack up a tidy record early, which would mean the top 3-4 contributors will get consideration for a spot. On this team, right now, Gasol's behind Kobe only in pecking order (and probably numbers), so he almost has a spot locked, barring injury. His post-trade numbers are absolutely ridiculous (59% from the field, 65% True Shooting, 128 offensive rating) despite getting fewer shots than usual. If he can keep up the efficiency in the slighter role, this team looks almost unstoppable.
Edited by daco_inc, September 19, 2008 - 09:59 AM.