There are many people that are already writing the Los Angeles Lakers off for the 2013-2014 NBA season. I too have been in the camp that believes that Steve Nash may be past being an effective point guard, that Kobe Bryant’s Achilles injury raises a ton of questions about when he will play and how effective he’ll be when he does, and that the loss of Dwight Howard is a crippling blow.
Despite all of the things that could and seem to have gone wrong for the Lakers this off-season, including their lackluster free agency signings, it’s still entirely feasible that this team could wind up in the playoffs as an eight seed. Obviously a lot of that will hinge on the return of Kobe, but the performance of Pau Gasol will be just as important if that is going to happen.
As he struggled to coexist with Howard last season and was slowed down by injuries, Gasol had the worst season of his 12-year career. In 49 games he averaged just 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 blocks in 33.8 minutes per game while shooting just 46.6 percent from the floor. He was relatively solid defensively, but he saw his effectiveness offensively noticeably slip. In the 2011-2012 season, Gasol averaged 0.95 points per possession, the 113th best rate in the league. He saw that slip to 0.87 points per possession last season, ranking only 280th in the league.
However, with more space to operate in the post now that Howard is gone, Gasol could be due for a rebound year. He will be able to operate in the post, where he’s really at his best, more freely this season and should see quite a bit of touches on that end of the floor.
Gasol is set up to prove that he didn’t lose his game and that it was just a bad situation in L.A. last season. He could come out and return to All-Star form. If the Lakers have any chance of making the postseason this year, that’s what has to happen.
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