Pau Gasol wants more work in the low post
The timely behind-the-head pass that earned Andrew Bynum a trip to the free-throw line epitomized Pau Gasol's strong chemistry with his fellow 7-footer. His constant passes to Kobe Bryant as he cut toward the elbow epitomized Gasol recognizing Bryant's sweet spots. Finding Matt Barnes penetrating across the lane for a one-handed slam showcased Gasol's strong court awareness.
Gasol was happy with his season-high 10 assists and zero turnovers Sunday against Indiana. The only problem: Gasol isn't happy for reasons beyond the Lakers' 98-96 loss Sunday to the Pacers, current three-game losing streak and 10-8 record.
Gasol's stat line of eight points on four for 12 shooting against Indiana represented an ongoing trend where he's struggling with his midrange jumper and establishing post position. It also reflects the Lakers' tendency of making him more of a facilitator and less of a post threat.
"I would like to get a little more inside myself," Gasol said. "I always like to get different looks and be able to attack from different angles."
Instead, the majority of Gasol's offense has centered around working outside of the post. According to NBA Statscube, 44% of his shots have come this season on midrange jumpers, while only 22% have happened in the post. That's a sharp decrease from last season's numbers where Gasol provided a perfect balance between shooting in the paint (29.3%) and off midrange shots (30.3%).
The shifting dynamic hardly proved to be a problem earlier this season when Bynum dominated inside without much resistance and Gasol knocked down open shots with consistency. But that's evolved. Bynum has struggled handling double teams, while Gasol has shot 40.8% from the field in the past five games.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown conceded that Gasol "needs to score a little bit more," but then immediately praised his facilitating. Lakers guard Derek Fisher provided the perfect analysis. Though he acknowledged that "we could definitely find ways to utilize his skills better than we do at times," Fisher explained how Gasol operating in the low post could bring complications to the team's front-line dynamic.
"Based on the skill set of our two bigs, it's more natural for Pau to be away from the basket and for Drew to be lower," Fisher said. "It balances out."
In other words, it's easier for Gasol to adapt to the Lakers' offense than Bynum. Of course, Gasol commanded more touches than Bynum in recent seasons. But that happened partly because of Bynum still developing and his willingness to assume more defensive responsibilities.
With Brown's system emphasizing defensive balance and the Lakers currently struggling on offense, it would remain harder for Bynum to fall back to his original position. Still, the Lakers' offense will largely hinge on how well Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Bynum thrive offensively. And lately, it's clear that Gasol's facilitating and midrange shot hasn't proven dependable enough.
"A little too many jumpers for my taste," Gasol said. "I'd like to get a couple more looks inside the paint. That will increase the percentage of my shots."
— Mark Medina
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