Gasol is not the League’s Best Big Man

June 10, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02196015 Boston Celtics player Rasheed Wallace (R) fouls against Los Angeles Lakers player Pau Gasol (L) from Spain during the first half of game four of the NBA Finals at TD Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 10 June 2010. The Lakers lead the series over the Celtics 2-1.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Over the course of the playoffs, a case has begun to surface that the Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol is the best offensive big man in the game. Some even go as far as to say he’s the best big man overall. I will concede this: Gasol’s play has been markedly great over the course of this postseason, and the suggestions of 2008 that he’s soft are long gone — the Lakers would not be close to where they are without his constant support.

Accordingly, it makes sense that people are crowning him the best right now, when he’s playing at his best. Unfortunately, a few playoff series make up too small a sample size to serve as a significant basis for the argument at hand. Let’s look at the comparison between Gasol’s postseason and regular-season numbers.

During the regular campaign, Gasol was solid on both ends of the ball. Injuries limited him to only 65 games, but he still gathered averages of 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field and 79 percent from the stripe. On defense, his length proved a solid deterrent to opposing power forwards, and he registered 1.7 blocks per contest.

In the playoffs, Gasol has been closer to inhuman. In the second round and the conference finals, Gasol dazzled spectators with a wide array of post moves, tip-ins, and an automatic mid-range jumpshot. During the first three rounds, Gasol could have made an argument for the best big man in the league, at least on offense. But take a look at Gasol’s matchups in those three rounds and some questions begin to arise.

In the first round against Oklahoma City, it was Jeff Green. Against Utah, it was Carlos Boozer. And against Phoenix, it was Amar’e Stoudemire. What do those three guys have in common? They’re all 6-foot-9, and Gasol has a three-inch height advantage on all of them. No wonder he was so dominant. He had a significant length advantage on all his defenders. It puts a damper on any nomination that he’s the best big man.

So when Boston came around, Gasol did hold his own in the first two games in Los Angeles. But when the series shifted to Boston, it was a different story. In Games 3, 4, 5, Gasol averaged only 15.6 points and 9 rebounds while shooting a measly 44 percent. It goes to show what effect a good defender can have on the supposed best big man.

But just looking at Gasol’s numbers doesn’t decide this. There needs to be some comparison. On the defensive end, the discussion starts and stops with Dwight Howard. He’s the best defender in the game; there’s no question. He blocks so many shots, but that doesn’t do him justice. The number of shots he effects or discourages has a profound impact on Orlando’s defensive game. Think of it like a big slugging hitter chasing a home-run record. If Barry Bonds didn’t get walked all the time, he could hit a lot more home runs. If opposing players took shots indiscriminately without considering Howard’s swat, he’d rack up a lot more blocks.

On the offensive end, you have to look at both Chris Bosh and Stoudemire. Bosh averaged six more points per game this year than Gasol. He’s much more athletic, his post moves are just as good, and his perimeter game’s even better. Some may argue that Gasol’s a better passer, and he is, but to whom is Bosh going to pass the ball? Sonny Weems? C’mon. As for Stoudemire, he may not have a back-to-the-basket game, but his face-up skill set is fantastic. He’s significantly more explosive than any top-tier big in the league not named Howard, and he has a better shooting touch than Gasol does.

So Gasol is clearly not the league’s best big man. And NBA fans shouldn’t let a few solid playoff games misguide them into thinking he is.


Overreacting to Cleveland’s Game 2 loss

LeBron and the rest of the Cavs have nothing to worry about.

The Cavaliers were overwhelming favorites to defeat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals before the series began.

After an expected Game 1 victory, Cleveland fell in what was not a close game in Cleveland on Monday night. Now, everyone is pointing out problems with the Cavs and all of a sudden doubting their talent.

But is the criticism warranted?

Sure, they lost the home-court advantage in an embarrassing game. But just because the Celtics play a great contest with unexpected bench production from Rasheed Wallace doesn’t mean they are prepared to knock Cleveland out of the playoffs.

In Game 2, the Cavaliers shot only 40 percent from the field. They shot a horrid 19 percent from long range. Cleveland was second in the league in three-point shooting during the regular season, shooting over 38 percent from beyond the arc. So the shooting will almost assuredly rebound for the remainder of the series.

Moreover, the Celtics’ shooting percentages were exceptionally high: they connected on 51 percent of their field goals and 49 percent of their long balls. Cleveland tied for third in the league at just above 44 percent shooting allowed, so it was an anomaly on the defensive end, as well.

Lastly, the doubters underestimate the impact LeBron will have on the remaining games this round. In Game 2, he was all over the box score with 24 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and two blocks, but those numbers aren’t even that incredible by LeBron’s standards.

If he sees his team is struggling, he’s going to give his best effort to propel his team to a win. So far in Game 1, James already has 16points with over two minutes of the first quarter remaining.

Boston’s win in Game 2 was certainly an impressive feat, but it really shouldn’t be much cause for concern for Cavaliers fans. Given the oddity of the statistics for both teams in that game, it is almost definitely an isolated incident.

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NBA Today: March 29

  • The day after I write about Vince Carter’s importance to a successful Orlando playoff run, he leaves the team’s game with a sprained toe.
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