Posted by: Wilson | July 8, 2008

Frontcourt in the Forefront

Duo prepped for dominance?

After bowing out of the Finals without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers are prepared for frontcourt authority with a healthy Drew and a reinvigorated Pau Gasol. But, these two young players have yet to log any minutes alongside each other (on the same team). So, the main question is what would a Gasol-Bynum duo look like?

To begin with, we should establish some precedents. This tandem is comprised of two solid big men, of which either could start at the center position. Also, with Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ have a more traditional power forward in the mold of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Gasol possesses the talent to play center but he can still operate outside of the post. This Lakers duo will not be as bad as the Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph duo, currently stinking up NYC. But, it will not be as great as the David Robinson and Tim Duncan tandem that the Spurs sent out in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Bynum is a defensive-minded center, and his offensive capabilities are limited. He can finish well around the rim, but his post moves are not too refined. He has been working on his hook shot with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so we should see some improvement next season. Pau Gasol has a terrific back to the basket game, and can finish with either hand. He also has a nice face-up game, and can hit from outside fairly well. On defense, Gasol’s length really helps him but he struggles with bigger players. With Bynum on the court, Gasol will have to adapt his own game in order for both of them to play well with each other.

Room enough for both to dunk?

On the offense, Gasol operates in the post the majority of the time. When he is outside the key, he facilitates passes and will occasionally shoot one or two outside shots a game. With Bynum down low, Gasol will be pushed to the outside. This is where the problem comes. Gasol’s NBA Hotzones show that he shoots about 43% from his jump shots, preferring to shoot from either wings. However, he usually takes fewer than three shots per game and he is going to need to improve this in order to adapt to Bynum. Just like David Robinson started operating in the high post, taking more jump shots, when Tim Duncan joined the Spurs, so must Gasol. However, I have noticed that Pau takes some time to get settled for a shot and he usually likes to set his feet and hands before he shoots. The opposing team’s more mobile power forward may not give him this time, which the centers guarding him last year did. Just something to think about. Another problem is that making Gasol into an outside player would devastate the Lakers inside game, unless Bynum works on his own post game. This is how the New Orleans Hornets thrived throughout the season and the playoffs. David West’s jump shot helped give Tyson Chandler the room he needed on the offense to get alley-oops and offensive rebounds. And, as Andrew Bynum’s Hotzones clearly show, he is not a jump shooter, and exclusively works down low, so it will be Gasol who makes the outside game work. Regardless, the frontcourt offense is going to be interesting next year.

We should see more of this next season

On defense, Bynum controls the middle. He blocks players driving to the basket and can bang the opposing center in the post. Gasol has showed that he can defend his player on the perimeter, but he has trouble when he needs to defend down low. Despite his ‘soft’ label, Gasol did an excellent job in the Finals by making KG a jump shooter(or did KG make himself a shooter?), and by defending him pretty well from outside. But, he lacks upper body strength, so he gets thrown around by bigger bodies, as we saw in the Utah series. But, paired with Bynum, Pau should flourish on the defense. He is very mobile and can contest the jump shots of players like David West and Dirk Nowitzki. Bynum, will anchor the defense and provide the powerful post presence that the Lakers dearly lacked. The defensive possibilities become staggering if we throw Lamar Odom into the mix.

It’s going to be great to see Gasol play in the Olympics this summer. Maybe we will see another aspect of his game really shine. Bynum is still rehabilitating from his knee injury and hopefully be at full strength when training camp rolls around. Next season is going to be great to see them both play with each other.


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