After watching the Los Angeles Lakers squander another double digit lead to the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, it seems as though the Lakers may want to tweak their offense, just a bit. While Dwight Howard is a very good low post player, and I mean that in terms of physicality and the ability to finish, he is not of the caliber of Pau Gasol. Let me explain.
When the Lakers go into the post, feeding Pau Gasol, they have three legit options, 1) Gasol goes to work on a usually inferior defender compared to Gasol’s offensive skill set, and he gets fouled, makes the shot, or goes to the line. 2) Gasol passes to either Howard, or a cutting Lakers player, and the Lakers get a good look at an easy shot. 3) Gasol drives and kicks to a wide open shooter on the perimeter.
These are the options when Howard has the ball in the post, in order of likelihood. 1) Howard travels on his first step, trying to get past the defender. 2) Howard drives past his defender and misses a lay-up or bank shot. 3) Howard gets past his defender and gets fouled, missing one of two free throws. 4) Howard gets past his defender and actually finishes off a play. 5) Howard passes from the post without committing a turnover.
As you can see there are more options with Howard. However, they are ineffective ones. Ones that can cost the Lakers a crucial game, like tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers. With Gasol though, the Lakers are left with three good options, and rarely does Gasol commit a stupid pass from the post, his keen passing eye is one of the areas that make him so good.
What I’m trying to say is this, the Lakers can post up Howard, but don’t make it a consistent thing. Gasol needs his touches in the post. In fact, he needs more than Howard. Every Laker fan is calling for Gasol to get back to the 2009-2010 level of play, but there’s one problem with that. If you recall whenever the Lakers would close out a close game the big guy in the paint was Gasol, not Andrew Bynum.
And even when Bynum and Gasol were in the game together, Gasol still got most of the post touches. Gasol may be able to hit a few perimeter jump shots, but that is not his forte, and it throws off the rest of his game. Howard, on the other hand, is athletic enough to switch between the two. Now I’m not saying to get Howard on the perimeter shooting threes, but having him roam the three-point line, setting screens then cutting hard to the basket, is where the Lakers can get their easiest points.
There are few teams in the NBA who have the personnel to stop a Kobe Bryant– Dwight Howard pick and roll. Additionally I don’t believe there is any player who would be able to physically slow down a monster like Howard, barreling full speed towards the rim for an alley-oop. With his lack of an outside shot the options are limited for Howard, but the ones that are available are easy points, the Lakers just need to realize how to use him correctly.
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