Last season was not the most fun Pau Gasol has ever had in the NBA. Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant were soaking up his post touches, Mike Brown’s offense had him at the elbow and at other times as a glorified stretch four. He was not used well.
Gasol has to love the Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum trade. For a whole lot of reasons.
Starting with he never wanted to leave Los Angeles. He likes living in a diverse city where there are touches of his native Barcelona — José Andrés’ The Bazaar for food, the weather — as well as a nice lifestyle near the beach. Now he stays (at least for a few years until his contract runs out). Now he has Kobe Bryant saying Gasol will be a Laker as long as he is there (which again is not a long-term guarantee).
But on the court Howard is a better fit with Gasol. Howard isn’t a guy just going to the block, he is also a very effective pick-and-roll big man — he shot 74 percent when he got the ball back rolling to the rim last year. And now it is Steve Nash running that play a lot of the time. Howard may stay out top, giving Gasol room to operate in the post at points. (Howard and Kobe will get touches there as well.)
Gasol will get mismatches at the four he can exploit. He will get runs with the second unit where the offense will go through him. If the Lakers do move to more of a Princeton offense, Gasol will get a lot of touches because of his passing skills.
And on defense Howard will make everything easier. He will clean up a lot of mistakes and shut down a lot of pick-and-rolls.
Don’t worry, at some point this season Kobe is going to rip Gasol to the media because Gasol will be coasting. Gasol does not bring Kobe’s nightly fire to the game.
But he does bring a lot of skills and a lot of things that were key to the Lakers winning two rings. And now maybe he will get the chance to use them rather than being forced out of his comfort zones like last year.