Los Angeles Lakers Player Grades: Pau Gasol

Darius Soriano —  May 9, 2014

General Thoughts on the Season

Like nearly every other player on the roster, Pau came into this season with something to prove and looking for redemption. After being pushed out of his comfort zone last year while masquerading as a “stretch” four in Mike D’Antoni’s spread pick and roll attack while flanking Dwight Howard, Pau would enter this season as the main big man and the key interior player.

Theoretically, then, Pau was set up for success as a fulcrum of the team’s offensive attack.In practice, though, what followed was season filled with ups and downs, bouts of poor health, and, sprinkled in, some of that redemptive play sought from the beginning.

If anything, what Pau showed is that he can still be a very good player in this league. After dealing with the repercussions of not training all summer (basically, Pau had to work himself into shape) the season did not start as many of us would have hoped. Already in athletic decline, Pau struggled even more to play with a strong base and get the lift he needed to excel as a post player. Further, his diminished foot speed affected his ability to get by his man offensively and contain his man defensively. The results were some ugly numbers that translated more to a player who was close to being done as a solid contributor.

As the season wore on, however, Pau got more healthy and the quality play returned (at least offensively, but more on that later). As a pick and pop player, Pau showed the needed lift on his shot to start making his mid-range jumper. As a post player, he was able to better work his full arsenal and finish on his variety of hooks and turnaround J’s set up through primary and counter moves.

In January he averaged 20 and 12 on 51% shooting. In February, those numbers dipped some to 18 and 8, but his FG% jumped to 54%. In March he put up 19 and 9 on 50%. Basically, he was back to approximating the player he was before last season. No, he wasn’t championship level Pau, but he was a featured player on offense who could score one and one, drew some double teams, and still passed the ball wonderfully.

In April, however, the unevenness to Pau’s year returned. Bouts of vertigo caused nausea and headaches that had him in and out of the lineup. When he tried to play and/or travel with the team, the symptoms only worsened and he ultimately finished the season on the disabled list.

Not necessarily the banner year that Pau (and fans) hoped for, but there were definitely signs that he’s still a very capable player. Though, clearly, not one that enjoyed playing in the all-up tempo-all-the-time style that Mike D’Antoni preferred.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Pau Shot Chart

As mentioned above, Pau showed that he can still be a very effective player on offense. As his shot chart shows, he was an excellent mid-range shooter from straight away and very good from the right elbow. A pet play the Lakers ran a lot after Kendall Marshall came on board was the pick and pop on the right wing where Marshall could drive hard to his left hand and Pau could float into the FT line area where he proved comfortable knocking down that open shot.

And while his numbers on the season don’t reflect it, Pau was a much better finisher inside — especially in the restricted area — as he got his legs under him. From January 1st through the end of the season, Pau shot 65.6% in the restricted area and 49.4% on shots in the paint (non-restricted area). Compare this to his numbers from the first two months of the season (62% in the restricted area, 35.4% in the paint (non-restricted area)) and you can see how he got stronger and was able to maintain better play over the season’s last 4 months.

Of course, basketball is played on both sides of the floor and while Pau flashed a worthwhile offensive game the same cannot be said about his defense. While he was better in the 2nd half of the season as a rebounder and paint protector, the fact is that Pau offered his worst defensive season as a Laker and probably the worst of his career outside of his rookie season. Pau was often late to help on penetration and too often didn’t help at all. His screen and roll D offered much to be desired as he neither had the foot speed to hedge and recover on ball handlers nor the needed burst to sag below the screen and still jump out hard to contest the mid-range jumper. This often left him in no-mans land, not really helping on the ball handler but not sticking to his own man either.

Pau could still be a good man to man defender in the post, but as the game has moved away from classic post up threats to more spread pick and roll attacks those skills of being able to bottle up your own man down low constitute a fraction of the defensive play types of what they used to. This didn’t necessarily render Pau useless on D — his length was still useful when he did rotate and led to him blocking nearly 2 shots a game post All-Star break, but all in all he left a lot to be desired defensively. Especially when he was asked to leave the paint and help anywhere near the perimeter. There used to be a time when Pau, though not an elite defender, could play from the rim to the three point line and back to the paint on a single possession and be somewhat disruptive. Those days seem very far behind him now and don’t look to be coming back.

Most Memorable Moment

I mean, how could it be any other moment?

Overall Grade and Summary

When you add everything up, and when grading on a curve towards individual performance rather than by team results, it’s hard to give Pau anything higher than a B or B-minus on the season.

His offense was good to the point that if you just looked at his numbers — especially after the turn of the calendar year — you’d see a player who was performing near the levels he did when the Lakers were making deep playoff runs. He may not have had any of those huge “wow” games that he was able to produce in past years, but he had a solid consistency to him where you could pencil in his 17 and 9 and call it a night. That’s not the Pau of old, but it’s close enough where you could justify having him be option 2B for a playoff level team.

His defense, however, knocked him down at least a notch (and probably 2). Too often he just wasn’t (or couldn’t) be where he was supposed to and that compromised the integrity of the defense. The team’s failings on that side of the ball aren’t just on him, of course, but a more active, engaged, and capable defender could have done more to help hid the team’s deficiencies on that end.

Darius Soriano

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37 responses to Los Angeles Lakers Player Grades: Pau Gasol

  1. Very even take Darius.

  2. B minus? Lakers fans love them some Pau.

    A seven footer with less defensive value than anyone with a residence at Leisure World who shoots less than 50% from the floor and makes 20 million per is a solid D. And that’s the only solid D we will see from Pau this season.

    I have nothing bad at all to say about Pau the man and I am very grateful for Pau the basketball player- right up until the Summer of 2011 where even a Zen Master needed to start punching him in the chest to get him to play. From that point on he has been an enormous drag on the franchise. The fact that he was allowed to play out the entirety of the contract he had is- by a comfortable margin- the worst decision the Lakers have made in my 35 years following the club.

  3. Renato Afonso May 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    “The fact that he was allowed to play out the entirety of the contract he had is- by a comfortable margin- the worst decision the Lakers have made in my 35 years following the club.”

    Exaggerating much?

  4. Getting nothing for Howard?
    Paying Kamen $5 mill to get a front row seat.
    Allowing Ariza to walk.
    Hiring Brown.
    Signing a guy for 3 years who collects social security.
    Not having a no baseball hat rule at staples.
    Not. ahh never mind.
    Pau decision not in top 20.

  5. The way the injury situation started the ball rolling this last year, I think it was the perfect time to let Pau play out his contract as a Laker. Sure, we all might have liked it if he could have been traded for an up-and-coming starter, but that wasn’t what was offered – IMO. Last year we were looking for value – like the Steve Blake to a contender for two possible role players – and just dumping salaries doesn’t help the Laker brand.

  6. Allowing Ariza to walk is considered a mistake by our front office? Not sure how you come up with that one, but we did swap him out for MWP and that helped our championship run. Just sayin…

    For a lot of us Laker fans this bagging on the front office continually is really tiresome. We know how you feel and you don’t have to remind us every thread. There are other things to talk about.

  7. I was just scrapping for silly examples Craig. Bottom line like you pointed out the best offer for Pau was a 2nd rounder. Besides what else us there to talk about? Kobe on Kimmel?

    Little slow in Laker world right now.

  8. Odom was the perfect complement to Pau with his size, mobility, and face-up game, and the Triangle was a great offense for Pau. Combining the loss of Odom, the end of the Triangle, and age, things were much harder for Pau his last three years here.

    He is still a pretty good player, and can still help the right team in the right situation.

    Ariza is a personal favorite, he is a pretty good ballplayer, and everybody knew Metta’s deal was too long at the time and we saw this with Metta the last two years.

    But, IMO the Lakers would not have won in 2010 without Metta (then Artest), and to me, that makes the whole deal worth it.

  9. LOL
    JVG just stated (about Durant) what some people around here have said about Kobe for quite some time. Which is that, when he draws a double and shoots, he opens up the offensive boards for teammates. It’s a Kobe assist! :)

  10. Oh the Artest signing was the right move, not only bc Ariza wanted a lot more money than he was worth but im posituve would not had won that Finals against Boston, and im not talking about the dagger 3 he hit or that lucky tip in Phoenix. People forget how Artest shut down Pierce that entire series. Ariza didnt had the bulk to guard him or Lebron, that was the reason they signed Artest over Ariza. Without Artest there would not been a 2010 championship parade. And keeping Gasol is the worst decision that the club have make in the last 35 years? Hahahahahaha thats rich. He was traded hello!! And we know what happened and the Lakers rightly hold on to him because Pau Gasol even at 33 is worth more than a freaking 2nd round pick. Thats the most @&&”(;&” up comment i have read in a loong time.

  11. About the Triangle, the Triangle has only been sucesful on Phil Jackson coached teams. Nobody has win anything with it unless it has PJ and Jordan,Pippen,Kobe and Shaq to power it. With PJ gone i dont understand why people would want it back. Must be nostalgia…

  12. I should had added the Kobe-Pau tandem to that comment. Pau is the best PF the Lakers ever had even past his prime he is a very good player. The Triangle has worked only woth PJ and some of the best players of all time. It havent work nowhere else.

  13. The big mistake FO has made that was letting Howard & Gasol walked away for nothing, can you believe that? It’s not easy to find one big buy on any NBA team. Lakers fan should not complain about Lakers can’t get CP3, Clippers lost tonight.

  14. Renato Afonso May 10, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Fern,

    You are wrong about the Triangle. There are other places in the world where the triple post offense is successful so maybe it’s also a problem of who’s implementing it. Granted that you need good players to win, regardless of X’s and O’s, and that you see a lot more of zone defense outside the NBA but I believe it works if you don’t have a PG dependent team. I would never implement the triple post if my PG was Westbrook or CP3 but with an average PG I’d do it.

    One other thing that people can’t forget is that it requires players that buy into the system and understand it. It isn’t that difficult to grasp but I would say that you need at least one full season to have it run smoothly (unless you bring in players who’ve played it before, like Phil did). However, maybe the current NBA coaches can’t make the players buy into the system…

    By the way, I’m not saying the triple post offense is the best offense ever created or something like that. I’m saying that it’s a good system that works, like there are other systems that work, and that you may have to adjust your system to the available roster.

  15. I think OKC would be a target destination for Pau this off season, especially if they do not get out of the West. They get very little scoring from Perkins. However, their salary situation makes them a sign and trade possibility.

  16. Renato i know it worked on other places in the world granted, but not in the NBA. Howard walking away for nothing? Well it happens he is gone, its really rare that someone walk away from 30 million and the Lakers we all know why he left, Pau leaving? Like i said before he is worth a lot more than a second round pick even past his prime Mitch said that it wasnt worth trading him if thats what other teams were offering. A second round pick amounts to nothing 95% of the time.

  17. Leo – I have always thought the same thing. I think would push the Thunder over the hump for the next two years. I don’t understand their infatuation with Perkins. Pau would get a lot of easy hoops down low off of passes from Durant/Westbrook double teams.

  18. Gutsy win by OKC, when they get contributions outside the big 2 they are truly dangerous. The question is can they sustain it? I still believe the Clippers depth is the difference on this series, i just dont think OKC other players are consistent enough to help KD and RW on a nightly basis. On the other hand i would love to see the Clips bounced, Doc Rivers saying that they are “America’s team” now and and that people are pullin for them is sickening cant stand his arrogance. BTW that Clippers crowd was as dead as a Miami crowd during the playoffs. Bandwagon fanbase…

  19. Ko,
    You have a point. It is a very slow time in Lakerland. Sorry about sounding so ‘pointed’.

    Pau to OKC would seem to be an ideal destination for him. The problem is that Perkins is there for his defense, and Pau no longer brings even NBA-average defense at the center positon, due to age.

    If OKC could dump Perkins – not to us – then Pau could play center on offense and he and Ibaka would be able to man the paint on defense.

  20. @ Matt Perkins they overpayed for him and could not afford Harden as a result, for me that was a huge mistake, nobody want to trade for him bc of that contract. He is a non entity at both ends of the floor give me at least 10ppg and 9 rebounds from any run of the mill center over his suposedly toughness every day. He will be an expiring contract next season so they should upgrade .

  21. Not to get into conspiracy junk but:

    I saw at least 5 very odd calls last night in favor of the Flippers. If you believe in that stuff, Flippers vs Heat in finals would be a huge ratings bonanza.

    Two weeks of Donald pictures, Jessie Jackson etc etc. if so I have a friend who is season ticket holder in Miami. Gonna call him and see if we can do a deal to have every fan behind baskets wearing the V welder mask during free throws.

    Now that would be epic!

  22. The triangle offense has been used by quite a few college teams. Tex Winter won eight Big 8 titles with it at Kansas State back in the ’60s. More recently, on the women’s side, the Stanford, UConn, and Tennessee have all had quite a lot of success with it.

  23. Perkins they overpayed for him

    They could have amnestied Perkins and gone into tax territory to keep Harden; they chose not to do either.

    And yes, Pau would fit very well in OKC. Ibaka complements him perfectly.

  24. Pau, Odom, Bynum, Kobe, MJ, Pippen, Shaq, H Grant: They all have one thing in common – they played by far their best ball for Phil.
    Triangle: Arguing about the past success of the Triangle is like the Chess Club arguing about the validity of the Sicilian Defense.
    Slow Times: Indeed. We are coming off a 4 year bender with no end in sight. Waiting for the coaching selection, the pick, and what we are going to do in FA. And we are dependent on a guy who was born with a platinum baseball cap on his head.

  25. Re: ariza

    Ariza until this year was awful in the NBA. He was a bad contract and traded twice. His strength was off the ball defense and his one on one defense against PGs while with the Lakers. He no longer can guard PGs. The Lakers needed a SF who could defend SFs. The team asked Kobe to try and gaurd bigger SFs like Peirce which Kobe couldn’t do very well and it also cost him on offense. The Lakers don’t win the 2010 title with Ariza and without Artest. The Lakers needed a Sf who could guard Peirce, Lebron, Melo, and Durant. It was a glaring need.

  26. Pau, Odom, Bynum, Kobe, MJ, Pippen, Shaq, H Grant: They all have one thing in common – they played by far their best ball for Phil.

    _

    Sorry–no. They were all on their best teams under Phil; that is true. But all of those guys could do their thing with you or me as coach, although they are very different levels of players. Bynum actually had his best year under Mike Brown.

    What Phil was good at (among other things) was dealing with egos and getting good results in terms of team defense. Phil also coached all of those guys in their primes.

  27. I will concede Bynum. However the rest of the statement is true as you know. I did not say that Phil was the full cause of it. Merely the fact that they all played their best ball for Phil. No coach can win without talent. However many have had it (all the others who coached Kobe and MJ for example) and not won. Moving to the future: No coach will contend with the Lakers next year and it will be difficult to even show growth for the future, saddled with our uniquely old and expensive backcourt. I almost wanted MD to continue and I have mixed emotions about Scott getting it, cause I like him. It is like getting the “honor” to lead Pickett’s charge.

  28. Phil made the triangle work for Chicago and Los Angeles by employing coaches who knew how to teach it. He had Tex Winters for a mentor and coach. None of his disciples have had the same opportunity to bring that offense to a team with that kind of support. Spacing and ball movement never go out of style and neither will this offense.

  29. Good point Baylor Fan. And one knock on the system is that it is hard to teach and learn. Ironic, given that Phil won in his second year in Chicago and first year in LA. Yes he had talent, but so did Collins and Del Harris respectively. In any case, the Triangle won’t fix the 2014 Lakers, cause we are in a Box.

  30. Merely the fact that they all played their best ball for Phil.

    WADR, that is not a fact. It is an assertion. Phil won 11 titles is a fact.

    If you want to make an entirely non-statistical argument about team ball or defense, you can make it. But, check Shaq’s, Jordan’s, Kobe’s numbers, pretty much any guy on the list–no big jump suddenly occurred under Phil.

    As to Scott, I am not sure what you see in him other than the fact that he’s a Laker. I don’t think he has a bad record, and he has some plusses, but I am not seeing it. But I don’t think he will get the job in any case.

  31. .. very odd calls last night in favor of the Flippers.

    There definitely were a few calls against OKC last night that had me shaking my head. Particularly when KD35 was whistled for a foul against Crawford on that 65 ft desperation heave to end the 3rd quarter. Like you, I won’t go as far as theorizing a conspiracy, but what I will say is that I hope the refs – and one can say, the league – do not begin to buy in to that “America’s Team” garbage.

  32. Tra

    Agreed. What do you think about my mask idea for Heat fans if they meet in finals.

  33. Ko,

    Epic indeed. And why am I not surprised that an idea such as this is being hashed out by you .. ;)

  34. Man this is a great discussion today. One of the best of the season. I could not have asked for anything more. This is the last night of my bachelor party. And the reason it’s my bachelor party is because I’ve found someone I actually miss when I’m hanging with my best friends on the beach. That’s the Aaron love advice for the week. Enjoy it. So with emotional sentiments aside… I’m the Andrew Bynum expert. I actually think his best season was 2008. The year he broke out and broke down. He was a montser before his first knee sergery. He maybe wasn’t as polished as the Mike Brown Bynum… But he was a defensive monster, and a force in the PnR on both sides of the ball. He was much more the athlete than we remember. I remember a dunk against the Sixers… It was something Shaq couldn’t have done. Bynum had this Tim Duncan kind of coordination. When people say Phil never developed a player… That isn’t true. Andrew Bynum was drafted under Phil. Having said all that…. As usual RR is right. I hate the fact he is the smart guy on the site now. I haven’t been needed here in a long time.

  35. Warren Wee Lim May 11, 2014 at 6:58 am

    My love for Pau Gasol has been no secret even before he was a Laker. I believe Pau will linger as the greatest PF in Laker history long after we talk about his accomplishments. He is a shoe-in hall-of-famer with his international career as forever be a Laker to me.

    For the past 2 seasons, it has also been my advocacy that Pau needs to move on to another team that uses his skills best. A team that can use his high-post play as well as great basketball IQ in general and doesn’t require him to be a defensive stopper. If you give him this situation, his play will cover for more than his deficiencies. Every team needs an intelligent, highly-skilled and very high-character guy like him. For love of Pau, he needs to move on.

    I admire the Lakers for not trading Pau for nothing. We paid the tax to show that we value Pau’s contribution over the last 6 and a half years. We showed it by giving him the 3-yr 57M deal that he got in 2011. Now its time for both parties to move forward without each other, for the benefit of one another.

    The Lakers need to form a core that has the future in mind. Excuse Kobe but we can contend with him as an elder-statesman. Injuries and age make him realize his mortality and if he wants that last shot, he needs to understand lots of things. That starts with Pau moving on.

  36. “If you want to make an entirely non-statistical argument about team ball or defense, you can make it. But, check Shaq’s, Jordan’s, Kobe’s numbers, pretty much any guy on the list–no big jump suddenly occurred under Phil.”

    Yes, I would go with the non-statistical argument. The Jordans, Shaqs, and Kobes can get numbers for any coach. Getting them to titles is getting them to play their best. There were also the mostly forgettable years between Shaq and Pau where PJ made the Lakers a competitive team with starters like Smush, Kwame, Cook, Walton, a very young Bynum… Of course, any coach needs the right talent to win it all. Then running the triangle doesn’t make someone Phil Jackson.

  37. Pau, at this point in his career should have been the a very good 3rd option, ala Tim Duncan. The Lakers have done a poor job of complimenting kobe and pau moving forward and that’s hard to understand because everyone else seems to be able to get great young guards, yes we almost got cp3, but ok that was 3 yrs ago….. This is a very defining summer for this organization. If the Clippers get sold, there s nothing stopping free agents from preferring to play there instead of the Lakers, management needs to bounce back well this summer. Kobe back, top 7 pick, bring in perennial all star, resign Johnson, bazemore, Young, Henry, keep farmar, this is a second round playoff team at least. ex starting lineup