But what about Gasol’s shooting, which is the lowest it’s been in his career through the first month? Even though Gasol likes to drift more to the perimeter than most guys his size, he’s still highly efficient shooting the ball, and has only shot under 50 percent over a season once, during the 2003-04 season when he shot 48 percent. Currently, he’s shooting 42 percent on the season, almost ten percentage points lower than his average over his career.
If you look at Pau’s shot chart (per NBA.com) from this season, he’s shooting 47.8 percent at the rim and in the surrounding paint area. Last season, Pau shot 57.1 percent from the same area, and attempted a higher percentage of his shots from there as well.
Gasol is averaging more attempts in the 16-23 foot range this season than he has over the last five years – 5.1 shots per game, per Hoopdata, after only averaging 4.1 there last season (the only other season he’s averaged over four attempts from that range in his career). Plus, as mentioned already, he’s only attempting 3.2 shots at the rim this season. Over the last five years, he’s never been under four attempts.
Basically, Howard is stealing his shots at the rim, and since Pau has to look for his offense farther out, that’s lowered his shooting percentage as a whole. Who do you think he’s taken the majority of the shots at the rim this season for the Lakers? Um yeah, that would be Dwight, who has taken 92 percent of his shots near the rim on the year (per NBA.com). Howard’s bread and butter is at the rim, where he can catch lob dunks all day over opposing bigs, but while that’s hampered Gasol’s stats as a whole, it’s not limited his effectiveness for the team.
Even with Gasol struggling alongside Dwight and getting fewer shots at the rim, he still has the second-best plus/minus on the roster, and he’s still one of the best passing power forwards in the game today. Let’s not forget that Steve Nash has only appeared in a couple games this season before fracturing his fibula, and the high screen-n-roll game Nash plays with such aplomb fits perfectly with Pau’s little jumper and court vision. When Nash gets back from his injury, look for more offensive opportunities for Gasol and an improved shooting percentage.
The long and the short of it shows that even while shooting a career worst from the field playing alongside Dwight Howard’s lane-heavy production, Pau Gasol is still bringing more to the table for the Lakers. Both on offense and defense, they’ve scored better and defended better when he’s on the court. Whereas Dwight is limiting the Lakers on offense and defense, not to mention the hack-a-Dwight strategy that teams have started to employ since he’s such a terrible free throw shooter.
While it’s inconceivable the Lakers would ever deal the former Orlando center who was such a steal this summer, Howard’s hurting the Lakers a lot more than Pau Gasol. If the Lakers are gonna trade anyone, it shouldn’t be Pau, who has still found a way to help his team even as his partner in the frontcourt has limited his efficiency on offense. The Lakers already fired their coach, and now their subpar record is leading many to believe Gasol is the next to go. They need another backup point guard after Steve Blake had surgery, and they’re still missing the three-point shooters that thrive in a Mike D’Antoni offense (hello, Ryan Anderson). But trading Pau Gasol, one of the most skilled big men in the game, doesn’t really translate to more success if you look at the numbers.
Should the Lakers keep Gasol?
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