Ranking Pau Gasol Among the Top 10 L.A. Lakers Power Forwards of All Time

Richard LeContributor IIIOctober 12, 2012

Ranking Pau Gasol Among the Top 10 L.A. Lakers Power Forwards of All Time

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    Ever since the trade for Pau Gasol, the Lakers rose out of the ashes of Shaquille O'Neal's departure, and have had playoff success almost every season since.

    Throughout the years, the Lakers have had a myriad of legendary guards and legendary centers, but the power forward position hasn't had the same fanfare or recognition.

    Having said that, Pau Gasol comes in as one of the most notable and skilled power forwards to have ever played on the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Though Pau played the initial portion of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies, the two titles he helped the Lakers win have done a great job of cementing his legacy as a Laker and as one of the top ten power forwards in the history of the franchise.

10. Karl Malone

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    Perhaps the lackluster image of power forwards in franchise history is warranted, if a player who signs with the team on a one-year loan to try and win a title can make this top-ten list.

    Nonetheless, Karl Malone is an all time great, who enjoyed the bulk of his Hall-of-Fame career in Utah before joining the Lakers at the tail end of his career to try and win a championship.

    Although an injury derailed the legend for half of the season and hampered his play during the playoffs, Karl Malone still managed to average roughly 13 points, nine assists, and four rebounds per game.

    Though the tremendously short tenure Karl Malone had with the Lakers cannot truly make him a part of the rich culture of the franchise, there was no doubt that a Lakers team that fell in the finals may have made more of a push against the feisty Pistons if Karl hadn't been limping through the entire season.

    Karl Malone missed out on winning a championship with this franchise and encase his name in the annals of the great Laker big men, and to ultimately claim the one thing he hadn't achieved during  his illustrious career.

    However, despite this, his greatness has gained him critical acclaim and recognition for his career as a whole, and the footnote he left with the Lakers franchise will not be forgotten.

9. Horace Grant

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    Like Karl Malone after him, and countless players before him, Horace Grant decided to play out the tail end of his career with the Lakers in order to win a championship.

    The difference between the two is that Horace Grant was already a proven NBA champion before his stint with the Lakers.

    Brought in by Phil Jackson to help establish the triangle offense, Horace Grant brought in veteran experience that helped propel the Lakers to one of their three championships with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

    Helping the Lakers win a title to the tune of eight points and seven rebounds per game, Horace Grant proved his championship pedigree during his first stint with the Lakers in the 2000-2001 NBA season.

    After a few more years as a journeyman, Horace Grant actually played his last season in LA alongside Karl Malone, in the 2003-2004 NBA season.

8. Mychal Thompson

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    Like Karl Malone, Mychal Thompson played out the end of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Unlike Karl Malone, Mychal Thompson was able to acquire the titles he wanted in 1987 and 1988.

    Playing off the bench as a backup power forward and center, Mychal Thompson was brought in to anchor the second unit and defend against Kevin McHale and other offensively-gifted big men.

    Always averaging approximately 10 points and six rebounds during his final years with the Lakers, Mychal Thompson's production wasn't flashy, but he was consistent and dependable.

    His defensive contributions, as well as his ability to shoot a very high percentage from the floor, made him a very capable big man who definitely deserves his recognition in the illustrious history of one of the greatest franchises in NBA history.

7. Kurt Rambis

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    It's hard to include a player who averaged 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds as a part of any top ten list, but Kurt Rambis is the exception.

    Despite his seemingly inconsequential contributions to the box score, Kurt Rambis contributed to four NBA titles by being a glue player who brought intangibles to the team.

    Known for his Clark Kent-like appearance, Kurt Rambis was always a consistent force on defense, and would get timely boards and points as his team needed them.

    He was a fan favorite and always played with a 100-percent effort, ensuring that he always prevailed on what the coaches call 50-50 plays.

    In the same vein as a current-day Varejao or Noah, Kurt Rambis was a garbage man who did the dirty work that didn't necessarily transfer well onto a box score, but was essential in building and following through on championship aspirations.

6. A.C. Green

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    Forget any other modern day "iron man" in terms of longevity and toughness, A.C. Green was the originator of the term.

    Missing only three games in his nine seasons with the Lakers, while contributing to three championships, there is no doubt that A.C. Green is one of the most battle-tested big men to have ever played for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    A.C. Green was a very able defender, making the All-Defensive Second Team once, and was also once named an All-Star.

    Averaging slightly more than 11 points and eight rebounds a game while shooting over 50 percent from the field during the initial two championship runs he had with the Lakers, there is no doubt that A.C. Green was a key cog in establishing the championship culture the Lakers have cultivated.

5. Lamar Odom

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    Despite Lamar Odom's not being as glorified as many Laker greats such as A.C. Green or Kurt Rambis, his contributions to two NBA titles cannot be understated and undervalued.

    Lamar Odom was a selfless sixth man who played major minutes and almost always closed out games at power forward during a period when their franchise center, Andrew Bynum, wasn't ready to play major minutes in the clutch.

    Having superior handles for a big man, Lamar Odom often played the point-forward position, and his ability to orchestrate the offense and run the fast break often garnered comparisons to the great Magic Johnson.

    Almost always averaging close to 10 rebounds and 14 points a game during his tenure with the Lakers, Lamar was able to rack up the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award once, but was never able to receive All-Star honors.

    Despite this, aside from Kobe Bryant himself, there was no player more essential to the flow of the offense than Lamar Odom.

    Furthermore, his ability to hit the glass on defense and offense helped ignite the fast break, as well as accumulate second-chance points for a very big Lakers squad.

4. Happy Hairston

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    Similar to Kurt Rambis, Happy Hairston was a big man with a tendency to hit the boards, but he also had the ability to make baskets when his team needed them.

    Playing alongside Wilt Chamberlain at the center position, it's hard for him to get modern-day props for his contributions to the title Wilt and company spearheaded, as well as the 33-game win streak the team was able to rack up.

    Happy Hairston was a rebounding machine, and also scored enough points to be an offensive threat.

    Averaging approximately 14 points and 10 rebounds a game, he was able to lead the league in rebounds in the 1973-1974 and 1974-1975 NBA Seasons, while also leading the league in field-goal percentage.

    Hairston was a player who knew his role and performed it well, while also being able to top the league when his team needed him, in terms of production in key areas and roles.

3. Robert Horry

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    Winning seven championships during his career, three with the Los Angeles Lakers, Robert Horry proved that he is a true winner.

    Horry may not have been a superstar, but he was a player who knew his role and performed it well. Furthermore, there is no power forward in the history of the Lakers franchise, or even the league as a whole, who has had as much ice in his veins as Robert Horry.

    Although he only averaged roughly six points and five rebounds with the Lakers, his main purpose as a role player was to hit the boards and stretch the floor with his shooting. He accomplished the latter goal to the tune of 35-percent shooting from three-point range in three of his seven seasons with the Lakers, and over 30 percent in five of his seven seasons.

    However, his true value was what he brought during clutch time.

    Kobe Bryant may have been the assassin and fourth-quarter clutch machine, but Robert Horry was one of the deadliest clutch players in the league.

    Although his percentages weren't the highest, he never had fear taking his shot, which is essential for a clutch player.

    With a variety of game winners and fourth-quarter go-ahead baskets under his belt, Robert Horry proved his worth during the most important time in the game—the fourth quarter.

2. Pau Gasol

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    Pau Gasol has definitely made his mark in history as one of the great big men to have played in a Lakers uniform.

    His contributions to two NBA titles as one of the most versatile offensive forces in the league established him as an NBA champion and winner in the same vein as all the Laker greats that have come before him.

    Pau Gasol has a very effective low-post game with an array of moves he uses to score. His soft touch and length make him almost impossible to stop in the low block.

    Furthermore, Gasol has a good face-up game, and can make plays from the high post as a scorer or a passer.

    In terms of spreading the floor, Gasol is a very capable mid-range shooter who can also hit the three on occasion, if left completely wide-open.

    His versatility and his old-school low-post game make him a perfect mesh with Kobe Bryant. Together, they've spearheaded the Lakers to three straight finals and two championships.

1. Vern Mikkelsen

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    Vern Mikkelsen is a basketball legend.

    Not only did he contribute to four championships as a Laker, but he was also a prototypical power forward, a model for the position that has transcended generations.

    Known for his tenacious defense and toughness, Vern Mikkelsen averaged over 14 points, nine rebounds, and two assists a game, while racking up numerous All-Star nods and several All-NBA Team selections as well.

    In terms of longevity, Vern Mikkelsen only missed two games during his entire career, and his toughness and physical play also translated into the dubious honor of leading the NBA in personal fouls after the conclusion of his career.

    His decade-long tenure with the Lakers, in which he heavily contributed to four titles, establishes him as one of the greatest, most underrated players in the history of the Lakers franchise.

    It undoubtedly makes him the greatest power forward to play in a Lakers uniform.